Tips for Breaking into a New Industry when Changing Careers

Careers (board game)

Careers (board game) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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?

Job Search Tip: Never Answer Phone Calls When Busy

Don't touch this telephone! Never answer phone calls when busy

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I wanted to break away from personal finance a little bit and return to my roots writing about job searching. Personal finance and jobs are pretty inter-related, so it still works. Based on my experience, I’m sharing a tip that is important for ever job seeker to realize about phone calls. (if you want to skip all the back-story to this post, skip down to the bottom)

I was I was laid off subject to recall in December. This means that a return to work was only a matter of time without any effort on my part. As I mentioned in my net worth update, that time is now imminent.

But I haven’t been sitting idly around, however, but have been using the time to search for a new job. As low-paying, unskilled labor positions go, flagging isn’t bad. And for the most part, the company is pretty good. But I am getting really, really tired of being laid off. I have been laid off 4 times in the last 3 years, including twice in one week from the same company!

That three of them were anticipated ends of seasonal employment doesn’t make it any easier to handle. Just because I know to budget around seasonal employment doesn’t mean that the lean months are actually easy. It should come as no surprise that seasonal employers have high turnover rates as good workers such as TB seek out new opportunities that will be more stable.

Besides all that, the fact of the matter is that unemployment requires you to search for a new job, even if you plan on getting rehired for your old one.

So I’ve been searching. It hasn’t been easy considering the winter is a slow time for hiring. But I’ve been keeping my chin up for the most part, confident that something will happen.

Lightning Hybrids

In 2009, I first read about a local contender for the Automotive X Prize. The challenge was to build a car that had 100 mpg. Lightning Hybrids developed a hydraulic hybrid system to power their entry. Very cool stuff. I’ve been interested in alternative power sources for vehicles ever since my college roommate and I almost built our own WVO bio-diesel plant. After checking out their website, I signed up for their newsletter so I could continue to follow them.

Eventually, they decided to change directions and drop out of the X Prize due to cost considerations. Instead, they developed an after-market kit to convert large diesel drivetrains to use their hydraulic hybrid system. Fast forward to 2013. I opened up their newsletter to find that they were hiring for two positions. One was for a shipping manager, but the other caught my eye. They were looking for either an intern or a full-time employee as a Controls Assistant.

This job works with our controls team to install wiring harnesses, control boxes, and support vehicle testing.  This is a hands-on job that can grow into a full controls engineering position.  No degree required, but electronics and mechanical experience required. Electrical engineering and electronics student interns encouraged to apply.

In all the time I’ve spent job searching over the years have I read a job description that seemed to be written with me in mind more so than this.

My roommate in college was an electrical engineering major and he “may” have paid me to assist in some of his projects. Electronics & Electric Circuits was a required course in my Physics program. Of course, my Eagle Scout project was a bathroom remodel for a church which included a complete re-wiring of the electrical (why did buildings ever put the light switch to bathrooms outside?) I’ve installed telephone and ethernet in two houses and done repair work on those and cable coax in another three.

I’ve done 90% of the maintenance and repair on all of the vehicles I’ve ever owned. That includes replacing the EGR valve in January… in a motel parking lot.

What I’m trying to say is that I’m no stranger to electrical, mechanical, automotive, or engineering. And for a green technology company? I’m in. So I sent this cover letter with my résumé:

I am interested in the controls assistant position you currently have listed in your newsletter. I have been assisting in automotive maintenance and repair, and re-wiring jobs since my teens. I have recently re-soldered the instrument cluster on my Chrysler and am currently working on a project to re-wire the cable and telephone systems in my house.

I believe that these experiences provide the hands-on knowledge you are looking for to install wiring harnesses and control boxes and help with testing.

Attached is my résumé with more information and highlighting my long history of hands-on work and mechanical and electrical repair.

The newsletter and my email were on Monday, February 4. On Wednesday, I got a phone call. And like an idiot, I answered it.

My wife and I were in the midst of running errands and were just about to walk into the store to buy a carbon monoxide detector for the home we were selling.

It was someone from Lightning Hybrids asking if I had the time to answer a few questions. aka the dreaded phone interview.

Never Answer Phone Calls When Busy

Walking around Walmart isn’t exactly the best place to conduct a phone interview. So I explained that I was busy at the moment but asked if he could call back later in the afternoon or the next day. He said that would be no problem.

The next day, there was no phone call. Or Friday. Or the following Monday. I gave it a week and called back myself. I got a voicemail and left a message. It’s now been a month and I never heard back. I’m forced to conclude that ship has sailed.

He probably moved on to the next applicant and found a match. If I hadn’t answered that phone call, he would have left a voice mail, I would have called back an hour later, and I would probably be the Controls Assistant for Lightning Hybrids right now.

Have you ever had a job search moment you wished you could undo? Do you answer the phone when you aren’t in a position to take an extended call?


3 Job Search Tips for Recent Grads

The following is a guest post by Mia Renee. Mia is a recent college graduate familiar with the trials and tribulations of job seeking. She currently has a full-time job and also writes for several sites including a resource for university students.

Edward Antrobus college graduation - Physics department

Is it just me, or do I look old compared to the rest of the graduates in this pic?

Congratulations recent grads, you’ve graduated into the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Of course, you probably already knew this. In fact, you’ve probably already felt the pain of not yet having a job upon your graduation. Just ten years ago, grads in your same situation had a job lined up before they even graduated. Now, college graduates are lucky if they have a steady income a year after they finish their degree program. If this sounds like a familiar situation, read on to learn some job search tips that you should be employing in order to become employed.

Job Search Tip #1: Always Apply

When you were younger, you were told to go to college so you could achieve your dream job. That’s a nice thought and a wonderful thing to work for, but sitting around for years waiting on a dream job without any money in the bank just isn’t going to do. Keep your dream job in mind. It is a goal that you need to work toward. In the mean time, start applying to other positions just to pay the bills. Maybe your all-time dream is to become a librarian, but you’re having trouble finding a library job. You might want to look into related careers like teaching, tutoring, or yes, even working in a bookstore. It is true, working at a job in which you are grossly overqualified for is no walk in the park, but it is infinitely better than being unemployed.

Job Search Tip #2: Ask Around

You’ve graduated into the social networking era. This is great. However, don’t underestimate the power of good old-fashioned networking skills. Ask your family and friends if they know of anyone who’s hiring, you may be surprised. Also, knowing somebody might give you a better chance of getting the position. Don’t be ashamed to ask everyone. So, your friend’s mother is the vice president of a small business? Time to call her up for a brunch date.<

Job Search Tip #3: Give it a Shot

So many recent graduates choose not to apply to jobs because they’re not sure if the job is the right fit for them based on the description listed online. In actuality, it’s better to just apply. If the employer doesn’t think you meet the qualifications, you won’t even be called for an interview. If you really don’t like the idea of working there after the interview, no one’s forcing you to accept the job. If you’re unsure, just give it a try. You might end up liking it.

The Path to Success

As you can see, persevering, being outgoing, and being open-minded are three key traits that will help you land a job, even in this economy. Also, just remember that the path to success is seldom a straight and narrow line. Instead, it winds and wraps, climbs over mountains and crosses muddy rivers, until eventually the person walking the path ends up in a really good place. You’ll get to that really good place, just keep trying and give it time.

Interview success: Our 5 steps to job perfection

Job Interview

Job Interview (Photo credit: dichromatic winson)

This article was written by BCL Legal services.

Thinking through potential interview situations in advance with these five focuses can help in an already tense, nerve-racking situation.

Prepare in advance

Think of five or six scenarios in which you felt successful in your work, your education or a volunteer position. It may even help to write these stories about your life down. This helps some of us organize our thoughts and focus our mind. These scenarios should help to answer any basic interview questions. Use these past successes to highlight your desired strengths. Make sure to have a variety of strong points to use as examples. Dealing with difficult people may not be pertinent to the primary job but conflict resolutions in any position are necessary. A coaching experience with your child’s soccer team helps highlight this. The most difficult time to delegate and teach teamwork is in situations such as volunteering. There is no monetary carrot or no formal stick, in other words, no rewards, such as bonuses and annual raises, or disciplines to assist in creating successes and teamwork.

Speak to level of understanding of the interviewer.

If you are interviewing in an industry that is different from the position that you using as an example, set the stage, tell the story, make it understandable to someone with no knowledge of that particular industry. However, this could work to your disadvantage as well. It is ok for you to ask a few questions of your own to determine this. Try to keep the questions in a conversation tone.

Response time in answers an interviewers question is important.

Some companies may look for people that take time and think answers through completely before answering; others are looking for someone that processes information quickly and is able to respond to questions rapidly. Remember there is a difference between a quick answer and answering quickly. This may be a time when having written down the past successes stories will make recall easier, especially in the stress of a formal interview.

Listen to the entire question, and then remember to answer all parts of the question.

This speaks to how your listening skills as well as ability to remember. Ask the interviewer to repeat the question if necessary. At the very least, this will let them know that you heard part of the question and realize that there is more to it than you were able to answer at first.

Body language is noticeable.

Sit upright comfortably without slouching back or sliding down low in the seat. Leaning forward as if at the starting line of a race, ready to spring at the interviewer may not work to your advantage. You should be alert in your body tension but still relaxed enough to show that you are confident in yourself. Yes, self-confidence can be faked.

What job interview tips have helped you in the past?

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