Newcomers to any field must contend with the dilemma that bedevils all entry-level candidates how do you get hired in a business world that wants experienced people? Many people find themselves in this position: recent high school and college graduates, foreign born immigrants with no local experience, and those returning to the workforce after long sabbaticals.
There's no easy solution to this problem, but there are ways around it. How can you compete with other candidates who have more experience? Let your cover letter go to work for you. Talk about your education and training and how they have prepared you for your profession. Be specific about your intentions. Tell the employer exactly what you're looking for. Talk about what you bring to the party and how your skills will benefit the employer.
If you are a recent college graduate, most experts recommend listing your educational background first, followed by work experience, even if it's not directly related to your field. Screeners look at entry-level resumes to see what kinds of experiences you've had, levels of responsibility, and how much work you've juggled while going to school.
If you have professional experience in your particular field as a summer intern, in a work study program, or as a volunteer in your community tell the screener what you've done. Give the dates, job titles, and responsibilities. Experience in the field can be your strongest asset.
Finally, computer skills are becoming increasingly important in today's highly literate work environment. If you are well versed in software used in your profession, list it on your resume.
Most entry-level jobs today are obtained through networking. Your best resources are your friends, family, and associates. Everybody has been through this before and knows what you're experiencing. The more people who know about your job search, the more likely your search will be a fruitful one.
TRANSFERRING YOUR SKILLS
Transferring your skills to another field or industry offers much of the same challenge as seeking an entry-level job, even if you already have significant professional experience in a certain field.
There could be a number of reasons for exploring a field where your credentials and experience may not immediately seem applicable. Certainly, if your recent work has been unsatisfying or if your industry is depressed, you have a special incentive to look into a new field. If you do, you need to balance your enthusiasm against the practicalities and the realities of the job market.
Look for industries or positions that are related to your skills and knowledge. For example, the field of banking has the following characteristics:
- It is a service industry, financial in nature.
- "Production" consists of processing great quantities of data and handling large volumes of paper.
- The personnel needs of banking consist of a great many entry-level workers, which present challenges in selection, training, retention, pay, etc.
If much of your experience has been in a certain function of business, like human resources, accounting, or sales, you may reason that you could fulfill your function in any industry. That may well be true, but sometimes individuals within the business world take a narrower vision; that is, a bank seeking a new Human Resources manager may tend to favor a candidate with considerable banking experience. This is an instance where you will need to emphasize skills more than experience in your marketing approach.
Some functions of business seem to be easier to sell across industry barriers - corporate attorney, patent department manager, deep water transportation expert, traffic manager, EDP operations manager, corporate aviation head. These are all somewhat specialized in their fields, no matter what the main business of their company may be. And remember, key management skills can be realigned into most functions and types of organizations.
If you are already in your mid or late career years, you may find some prejudice against a transfer of skills. However, strong skills can still be transferred into environments where experience and maturity are valued, although a bit more patience and very careful targeting may be required.
You can see that this sort of "creative targeting" requires visualizing where your skills could be transferred, in depth knowledge of the business world, and development of new marketing strategies. Following are three examples of individuals who made successful transitions to entirely new careers by way of skill transfer:
Director, National Field Operations for the corporate headquarters of a major insurance company. He had spent 18 years with the company and had lived in six different cities as the company promoted him and moved him and his family. Based on his knowledge of operations and familiarity with relocation issues, he became Vice President, National Sales for a large well known national moving company.
Facilities and Logistics Planning, manufacturing company. An avid fishing enthusiast, he originally wanted to open a fishing tackle store but abandoned that idea after working in one for a summer. Instead, he runs fishing expeditions out of a sports and outdoor retail store, using his skills in planning and logistics to set up and manage itineraries and movement of people on these trips.
Information Systems executive with an interest in cooking. He took his severance and savings and three months time to enroll in a culinary institute in France, then came back to the U.S. and apprenticed in a restaurant for six months. He has now opened his own Patisserie specializing in "distinctive cakes and pastries."
Remember that if you identify and talk about yourself in terms of past tides, functions, and experience, your range of possible future positions is likely to be limited to the same or similar industry/function. On the other hand, if you do a thorough job of identifying your managerial and technical skills, your traits, personality, and style, as well as give concrete examples in your marketing materials, you will widen the spectrum of your career choices and enhance your networking activities.