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Changing Careers When You Lack Direct Experience

Don't let it hold you back.

A smiling woman works in a bakery after changing careers

Are you just 'done' with your current line of work?

Do you long for change into something different, but feel that your lack of experience in a new field is a huge obstacle?

It can feel really exposing, to want to leap into something new without the 'goods' to back it up. The fear kicks in. Perhaps you're deselecting yourself from the process before you begin:

Who do I think I am anyway?

I could never do that.

I'd be laughed out of the room.

Sound familiar?

It's not uncommon to have these self-limiting beliefs when you're making a substantial pivot, but they are limiting. Let's unpack how to change careers when you don't have the formal background and experiences that others typically have in the field.

Notice Your Self-Limiting Beliefs with Curiosity

There's something important which underpins all this negative self-talk.

It's fear.

Fear of not being good enough, fear of failure, fear of rejection.

And this is about the specific voice in which your mindset saboteurs are showing up, and speaking to you.

We can draw on learnings from psychology here to start to weaken the power of these voices:

  • Observe what the voice sounds like. Give it a nickname.

  • Start to create a gap, between the thoughts, and your response.

  • Notice it with curiosity.

  • Ask it if it's true.

  • Formulate a different thought, based on actual evidence.

For example: "I'm not good enough". Huh, that's interesting, I'm having the thought that I'm not good enough. What's the evidence for this? I mean, I've achieved X, Y and Z in my past. I'm bright, I've done a lot I'm proud of. I don't think this holds up, sorry brain.

It's a habit and a practice, but can start to create distance between how you feel, and the nonsense your brain is feeding you.

Cosplay As Someone In This Role

Imagine for a moment that you already a Sales Manager/Marketing Assistant/ Graphic Designer/Project Manager (insert relevant ideal role here!)

How can you get into their 'world'?

  • What are they up to?

  • What events do they go to?

  • What workshops do they attend?

  • How are they speaking? With what industry lingo?

  • What are their industry 'texts' that are treated as bibles?

Immerse yourself for a few weeks, and see how it feels. You can also notice what occurs to you, as an outsider.

  • Is there a trend that seems obvious to you, that no-one has mentioned?

  • What are your views on what you're learning?

Build up your knowledge of this profession until you feel able to talk about it without feeling like you're roleplaying anymore.

Be ready to share these with people you speak to. Which brings us on to...

Your Network is your Net Worth

This is about authentic connection.

Not the sleazy, grasping vision that immediately sprang to mind when you read the work 'network' (I know, the connotations of that word are doing some seriously heavy-lifting in our society).

Just genuine, human-to-human conversations. I'm talking informational interviews. This is about reaching out to people who do these roles already, and asking them about it.

Take what you've learned from your cosplaying research, and leverage it in your informational interviews. Show them that you're interested. Use industry language, share your views about the online event you attended. Is there any takeaway you can share with them to deliver some unexpected value back?

These connections are so valuable. Not only from what you'll learn from the conversation (hopefully you'll come away from them having had your assumptions challenged), but from the bridges they build.

After all, you're not asking for a job outright, but now you're in this person's mind when a relevant opportunity may present itself.

Telling Your Story

You will have a wonderful story inside you, about who you are and what you've discovered, which has led you to this moment.

This is how you'll connect with people. Starting with your story is a powerful way to make people remember you, listen to you, and build a shared understanding between you.

In her book U-turn, Ashley Stahl suggests starting a story with something from your past or childhood which provides context for who you are. This can be in the form of "I grew up in a house where", or "Looking back, I was always the kind of kid who...".

A story might look something like this:

"I grew up in a house where we were always (thing that links to your current pivot - i.e. encouraged to be prepared and planful; debating with each other; active in our community). I've loved working in (profession) and feel really grateful that I grew my skills in (insert transferable skills here). I was always recognised by my bosses for my knack for (skill). Last year, I realised that what really lights me up is (activity), and that was missing from my career. I'm really excited to be making this shift into XYZ, which I feel is much more aligned with what I do best and what I find energising."

Selling Yourself Through Powerful Personal Branding

Look, you're not going to compete with someone who has been in the industry for 10 years, on experience alone. They have got you beat!

But that's not the goal. That's not what you're doing here. Instead, you're explaining why YOU are the ideal fit for this role. It's precisely because of your unique background and experiences, that you bring a powerful different perspective to this position.

This is about your story (see above) and how you bring yourself to life in your applications.

This can involve a Skills-based CV, showcasing your transferable skills, and firming up your personal brand online.

You can do this through:

  • Writing blog articles on the area you're keen to move into

  • Building a website where you share your journey

  • Sharing industry news and commenting thoughtfully in your LinkedIn profile

You might even decide to share a portfolio of your ideas, side projects, or a video introduction to accompany your applications and provide context.

There are multiple ways to share your brilliance. Which is right for you?

You've Got This

If you're at the end of your current career chapter, and are keen to start writing the next one, I can help. My Career Clarity Toolkit takes you through what to consider, and how to begin to explore alternative roles, step by step. If you want even more help, my 1:1 coaching can support you through your journey.

Always on your side,

CEO and Founder, Clarity Coaching with Louise


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