I hear it all the time from professionals that are tired of their current job, pining away for something new: they want out, but can’t because they are stuck in their career. Admittedly, switching career paths or industries can be very difficult, especially if you are already a mid-level professional or rising executive, but it’s certainly not impossible. The trick is to brand yourself appropriately and transfer your skills to an area of focus. I’ll give you an example:
Let’s say that you are in the accounting department of a big corporation where your responsibilities are centered on validating transactions, mitigating audit risk and preparing summary P&L reports. You are doing well in your job but want a change — something more dynamic, client-facing, strategic and marketing-oriented. Maybe you always wanted to be in marketing but the job market downturn forced you take a fallback option in accounting. How can you translate your quantitative-oriented work for a position building and implementing marketing programs?
First, emphasize the personal interactions you have in your current role with your peers, colleagues and senior managers. How you convince them that your perspective on how to treat a particular accounting entry can be translated to the skill you would need as a marketer selling why a certain sales strategy will win customers. Second, highlight the fact that your quantitative skills are actually an advantage to a marketing team as you would immediately be able to estimate or forecast how profitable a given promotional program might be (and probably better than your peers can!)
Another example can go the other way — someone in sales or a client-facing role very interested in transitioning to a job in management. For this switch, this person will need to emphasize leadership, decision-making and organizational skills from their work in sales to re-brand themselves appropriately. Managing a portfolio of clients, strategizing which prospects to go after first and applying a long-term view on relationships are all elements that would translate to group head or division leadership role.
The common theme between the above approaches is to link key elements of the role you want to the job you are currently doing. On the surface, accounting vs. marketing or sales vs. management are completely opposite ends of the career spectrum, but there are similarities if you are willing to take the time to really evaluate your background and get a little creative. Think carefully about what you can link to remind yourself that career change is always possible, and even more so in an improving economy.
Debra Wheatman is a certified writer and career coach who has guided the professional development of thousands of clients globally. She is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.