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Candidate Help & Advice

Getting Your Foot in the Door: 3 Strategies to Break Into a New Career

Going Inside Office photo from ShutterstockMost working professionals have considered trying something different as a career. However, many are unable to successfully switch into a new career path because they lack key insight into the tactics that will get them noticed by hiring managers who can facilitate a significant career move.

Instead of going about their job search as they would if they wished to remain in their current field, strategic job seekers ensure that potential employers’ eyes see their future potential, current transferrable skills and personality, and focus less on their past career experiences.

After 10 years of recruiting, the below recommendations (coupled with some resiliency, hard work and positive thinking) should result in your ability to positively shape the way employers view you.

1. Build a resume that addresses your change in work, highlights your skills and puts less emphasis on irrelevant job experience.

Some employers view job applicants who have non-fitting experience as either unsuccessful or unable to follow basic rules, since most job descriptions specify years of relevant industry experience.

It will be in your best interest to confront the background discrepancy in the introductory section of your resume.

With clever wording, it’s possible to turn what could be construed as a negative factor and into a positive, compelling marketing statement.

For example, if you were a nurse looking to get into marketing, your subject line might be:

It is my passion to assist an organization in heightening revenue as an integral part of a progressive, creative marketing team. To date in my career, I have excelled in [unrelated field], and have spent the past year becoming an expert at a multitude of pertinent marketing tactics.

When put in the right environment, my creativity, work ethic and resiliency can be leveraged to further any organization’s competitive advantage, regardless of industry or current situation.

To get the desired effect, keep the intro friendly, to the point, professional and unapologetic. You can also personalize the resume with your LinkedIn picture as well as your url to your bio.

Following the introduction, list your pertinent areas expertise either with bullet points or commas. Not only will this push the impertinent experience farther down the resume, it will place key areas of importance front and center.

2. Timing is everything. Apply to an open-minded employer, not an unreasonable one.

The rule of thumb is that the longer an advertisement is up, the more flexible an employer will become.

One of the most common mistakes hiring managers make when writing a job description is setting forth too strict background criteria.

For a multitude of reasons, their high specificity deters many qualified job seekers from applying to the position (i.e. wanting too much and offering too small a compensation package; or asking for a background combination that is exceedingly rare and insisting on interviewing an arbitrary number of exact candidates, say, five).

Regardless, it takes time for the reality that they are not going to find what they want to sink in. Hence, if you don’t match the background and apply the first day, you’re applying into their overinflated expectations.

This all changes in about 10 days to two weeks. Once the applications become more sparse and none fit the stringent criteria, that recruitment professional will realize that it’s time to take a different approach.

That’s when you come in. By applying to the job after two weeks posted, you’re no longer sending your information to someone who has overinflated expectations; rather you’re submitting that application to an open-minded, occasionally discouraged and much more flexible employer.

3. Utilize additional avenues. Form a relationship with a recruiter who has the right clients and amount of leverage.

When headhunters have very trusting clients, they are more likely to be able to pitch a job seeker who has inexact experience.

To supplement your search, take some time to get into the good graces of an executive recruiter(s) who has or a relationship with that company.

First, find the right recruiters who seemingly have (or potentially have) long-standing hiring contracts with your target employer(s).

Due to the fact that headhunters keep client names confidential, you are going to have to read in-between the lines of their job descriptions.

Once you see a potential fit, send a brief, friendly email query asking permission to send your resume.

Something such as the following should get their attention and warm them up to your way of thinking:

Hello ______,

Thank you for taking the time to read over my application; my name is Marie Smith and have a situation I thought that someone at _______ (recruiting firm name) could have the expertise to assist me with.

While I have strong experience and knowledge in (pertinent skill 1), (pertinent skill 2) and (pertinent skill 3), the past few years I have been in an unrelated field.

I do believe that I could perform at or above individuals coming from the same industry, though could use some assistance in marketing myself.

If this is something you’d be willing to consider, I’ll gladly send you my information and relentlessly work with you in order to satisfy the needs of your client.


Marie Smith

Above all, remember to be polite. If you want to gather honey, don’t kick the beehive.

In the End

Don’t let anyone stop you from switching careers. It’s never easy, but working in a position that challenges you is well worth the effort.