Debra Feldman
Debra Feldman

Ready for a radical career switch? Make your case

If you want to move into a new field, you have to deal with employers’ fear of a bad hire.

January 22, 2015
By Debra Feldman

Job candidates seeking a position in a different industry may face strong employer resistance. To overcome hiring authorities’ reluctance and show that hiring an outsider is an acceptable risk, candidates—especially those who do not have direct experience—must demonstrate that they have a willingness to learn and adapt quickly and an ability to deliver.

Do you want to take your career in another direction, assume new responsibilities, or enter a new field? A role in a new company or industry represents a chance to restore passion, fire up the synapses, and make work fun again. From an employer’s perspective, hiring anyone who does not have industry experience entails risk—making a bad hire can be costly.

Decision-makers usually prefer bringing in employees who will fit into the culture and know the competitive environment. Employers are not satisfied only with transferable skills; they demand proof of direct experience and relevant accomplishments. While a finance professional must have the nuts-and-bolts accounting experience, the candidate must also demonstrate the eagerness and ability to learn new industry norms and vocabulary. Rarely can such expertise be communicated through a résumé or online profile; a personal recommendation from a trusted source carries more weight. For these reasons, networking is the very best source of job lead referrals for career changers.

To overcome employer resistance, start by reading the job requirements, which should detail the necessary knowledge, skills, and experience. Address these specifications with examples of achievements, and then describe skills and accomplishments that the employer may not have considered. The idea is not to downplay the employer’s requirements. Instead, show that other competencies or trade-off talents enhance your value. Remember that your goal is to reassure the employer that you are a risk-free hire and uniquely qualified not only to get the job done but also to shave costs, add to profits, and improve processes.

Employers must be convinced that any new hire is up to the challenges and will not burden the organization with a slow learning curve or serious and costly mistakes. One way to win over a skeptical employer: Consider suggesting that your compensation be tied to performance, setting a schedule for milestones. This shows your willingness to put skin in the game.

As an outsider, you can point out that, being new to an industry or role, you are not encumbered by been-there-tried-that negativity and you are eager to consider implementing changes that have a worked elsewhere. Your confidence must shine through along with your willingness to tackle tough challenges.

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Debra Feldman is an executive talent agent and networking expert who specializes in unadvertised career opportunities. For more information, visit jobwhiz.com.