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