Career change is common these days but it is how the individual approaches that makes the difference in the results. For many business people, it involves returning to school to get an MBA. In addition to the broad strategic framework, leadership skills and targeted electives, there are several other key factors to consider before turning to school for a career change.
Relevant Work Experience
- Of course you want to identify your transferrable skills and how you can add value in your new field but there are many freshly minted MBAs trying to the same thing. What significantly differentiates you in the job market as a career changer, is relevant experience in your new field.
- It is one thing to talk about leveraging your finance skills in a new marketing career but you significantly differentiate yourself when you also offer six months of relevant, MBA-level marketing experience.
- Look for a program that includes valuable work experience not just an internship project.
Build and Leverage Your Network
- Networking is the key to success in most job searches but it is especially critical for career changers.
- Look for a program that provides you outstanding opportunities to meet leaders in business and successful alumni.
- Does the program provide you a mentor in your desired career field?
- Will you meet executives on campus?
- Your two years in an MBA program should be an opportunity to significantly expand and strengthen your network.
Do Your Research
- Learn what a typical career path may be leading to the position you aspire to. What is the typical entry point?
- What skills are critical for success in these roles?
- What is the typical salary?
- What companies and industries offer these roles?
- Utilize your network to conduct information interviews with people in the field and in the companies and industries you aspire to so you can learn the answers to these questions and more.
- Build a target list of companies you are most interested in. Start building your network in those companies
Some key considerations in your job search as a career changer:
- Focus on transferrable skills. Don’t try to sell them on everything you have done in the past. Focus on the skills that you bring to this position that will enable you to succeed. Do you have unique skills for this role? Why should they hire you? How will you add value to their organization?
- Track record – have you already successfully transferred to a new industry, a new department? Have you learned a new system or process? Show that you learn quickly, set high standards for yourself and quickly become an expert in your area of responsibility. You may not have done exactly what they are seeking but if you can show a track record of successful transitions and quickly learning new things, that can be very helpful.
- Show your passion – let them know why you are so passionate about this opportunity and what you can bring to the company. Be sure not to come across as the “flavor of the month” but as someone committed to success in this field. Know the key issues businesses face in this industry. Do you research in advance so you can ask insightful questions.
- Know your competition – you will be competing for this position with people who have done this job before. Sell the hiring manager on the unique strengths and perspectives you bring to the position.
Execute flawlessly – Be sure your resume has no typos or grammatical errors. Same for your cover letter. Prepare well for the interview. Have questions prepared to ask the interviewer. Be sure to send a hand written thank you note. Every step of the process you want to stand out and be remembered for positive reasons.