It’s been a while since I’ve written about job searching, and with good reason. I have been with my current company for 27 months, making it the longest I’ve ever been with a single employer, outside of my campus job in college. It’s not particularly what I want to be doing with my life, but they are promoting me. Because the promotion is a big investment on their part, I’ll be putting on hold my attempt at changing careers for a little while. If they are going to be spending about 5% of my current gross income on my certification and then effectively double my pay, it’s the least I can do.
Beat the 9 to 5 asks Should You Accept a Promotion If It’s Not Your Dream?
Recently, I was having a conversation with a surveyor at work about changing careers. He has some experience with that as he started his career in the paint industry. Aside from using paint for markings, surveying generally doesn’t have all that much in common with paint. Aside from giving me specific advice about two potential career paths (he was pushing heavily towards be pursuing surveying and was teaching me the craft as we worked), we also discussed some general ideas for getting your foot in the door when changing careers.
Vicarious Experience when Changing Careers
One of the nice things about my job is that I work near people who do the kinds of things that I want to be doing. I once joked that I should list years of vicarious experience on my resume. That may be taking things a bit far, but my surveyor friend assures me that the concept is sound.
Whether talking to a perspective employer or submitting an application, try to highlight the knowledge you already have. For two years, I have been following surveyors and materials testers around, asking questions and observing them at work. While I would need training on actual equipment, I have a firm basis on the theory behind the work and know a few tricks of the trade.
Be Aware of Perceptions of Your Current Role When Changing Careers
Sometimes your current job can hold you back from getting a new one. I’m not talking about the fact that I currently work 50-60 hours per week and could work from June to October without a single day off. I’m talking about the fact that when a prospective employer looks at your resume, they are going to see what industry you are currently in and have preconceived notions.
Flagging is one of those low-skill positions that you simply can’t keep people in. In a better economy, I would have been long gone already. As such, it is an industry that hires anybody and everybody. Many don’t last, and many of the ones who do simply don’t have anywhere else to turn. By my rough estimates, a quarter of the people I work with have some sort of criminal record
My surveyor friend said it well, “You are head and shoulders above other flaggers I’ve worked with. You have a car; you have a license. And I don’t see any electronic bracelet around your ankle. That puts you in another league entirely compared to others.”
People who work in other road construction roles know this as well. When they see a resume that says what I do, they are going to assume I am a slack-jawed idiot, ex-con, or both.
Now, most situations aren’t going to be a severe as that. But maybe you started your career in retail and are trying to move into banking. There are a lot of related skills between the two, but people who work in banks and other white collar jobs like that tend to look down on their blue collar counterparts who do much the same thing for a lot less money.
So don’t let an employer’s first impression of you come from a piece of paper. Get yourself in front of somebody and talk to them so they can make their impression of you based on you and not on some per-conceived notions of what you must be like. Then you can go on to apply for a job with them.
Do you have any other tips to share for people changing careers? Have you ever broken into a new industry?