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Career change: Outline edition

The other day I was bemoaning my extreme procrastination around posting the rest of my career transition story to a friend.

Me: I have extensive outlines and notes! I have a repository of all the responses I have sent people when they reached out to me! There is so much content to share and yet I just haven’t turned it into a narrative!

My friend: Well, why don’t you just post your notes and your outline? Why does it have to be perfect?

This kind of blew my mind because as much as I am really enjoying the looser, more experimental and iterative vibe of being on a design team, I still have some pretty intense perfectionist tendencies from my librarian career (and from my 20+ years working in academia).

So, in the spirit of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, I present to you my outline for the posts I have been meaning to make since October.

Identifying new fields

  • Career coach and leadership workshop
  • Assessments–MBTI, Strengths, Strong Indicator
  • Job forecasting sites–which areas were set to grow, which were diminishing
  • Some soul searching about what works for my brain, what bores me to tears, what are my values

Assessing the situation: who/what do I need to know?

  • Videos and articles on the field, its tools, and other useful stuff (will share a list of links separately)
  • Follow all the blogs!
  • Look at things you’ve already done that feel relevant to the new field
  • Take on sample “clients”–I worked with friends who are self-employed and had business sites
  • If you really need to, sign up for a class

Meeting the right people

  • Informational interviews 
    • Round one: gather info and pick up on lingo. Make a list of questions but be open to spontaneous thoughts, too. Seek out senior and mid-career folks who can remember what it was like to be new in the field. Especially helpful to find folks who made a similar transition, but take whatever you can get. (More another time on how to reach out respectfully and show your gratitude after you meet)
    • Round two (after you’re more confident about your skill set): contact people with hiring authority, come prepared with something to say about your qualifications. Don’t be afraid to ask if they have openings or can refer you.
  • Try to volunteer for a conference or webinar to get in for free (or just register if you can afford it). Talk to as many people as you can and follow up with them later.
  • If there is a local chapter of a professional org in the new field, join it.
  • If there’s a Slack or Discord server for people in your chosen field, join it. These tend to be very friendly spaces for newcomers. (Will share some links in a future post)

How I showcased what I can do

  • Built a portfolio, resume, and some template cover letters
  • Showcased portfolio on website
  • Through networking, established group I could solicit feedback from on the various parts of my application package. Be very open to critique!

Applying

  • Lots of rejections early on as I was still getting my footing
  • Don’t be afraid to apply for things that ask for more experience than you have! You have transferable skills, and you can convey that in your resume and at the interview
  • Apply for a ton of things. My trick was I would save jobs of interest on LinkedIn all week, then on the weekend, I would scan for ones that didn’t require a cover letter and apply to all of those. Then I would look through the rest to see which ones I felt compelled to write a cover letter for. With this approach, you will at least get some phone interviews, which are excellent practice for the jobs you really want

Interviewing

  • Don’t oversell what you know, but don’t make a point of talking about how different your soon-to-be former career was from the current one. If they asked you to interview, they know you have transferable skills. 
  • Be very clear about how your transferable skills are relevant to the new job.
  • Learn the new lingo! I had to learn to say “ship” instead of “go live” when talking about web content I have worked on, for example.
    • If you are coming from higher ed, you don’t want to call your students students, but instead call them “clients”
    • Your colleagues in other departments are “stakeholders,” and your cross-institutional collaborators are “distributed teams.” (These are just examples, you could frame this differently)
    • The more you can bridge the distance between how you talked about your job at your old job and how they talk about it at your new one, the better

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