To Change Careers or Not-to-Change Careers… That’s the Question.

24 07 2009
Lyndsay, me, and some other interns in our 2005 Intern Program

Lyndsay, me, and some other interns in our 2005 Intern Program

My friend Lyndsay emailed me with the following question:

“I need some help! I’ve been unemployed now for almost 7 months and it’s not fun.  I’ve sent out probably over 700 resumes at this point and have only had 2 interviews. I am basically in the worst possible industry right now real estate and finance.  I was an acquisitions analyst for a private equity group for about a year and half when I got laid off.  Boo bad economy.  I try my best to stay in touch with friends and contacts I’ve made in the industry, but they all keep telling me the same thing: it’s going to be a few years do something else in the meantime.   One big problem. I’m only qualified to work in my industry.  All of my experience, internships and my degree are all in real estate.  So my question is how does one go about a career change when you have no other experience?

What Lyndsay’s not telling you (but I know) is that she is deeply passionate about the Real Estate Industry and Finance, two of New York’s most defining businesses.  She has received awards and recognition in the field for her work and she is a true young expert.

Career changes should come about when you have a real passion for another industry and you’re ready to explore it.  In Lyndsay’s situation, she’s truly passionate about these two industries and I would encourage her to stay close, not change careers, so that she can get back into it when it picks back up.  For more advice on career changes, read these tips.

In the meantime, it’s important for her to stay productive, creative, and continue to develop her skills (…so when they ask her, “What have you been doing?”, she can pull out her long list…):

  1. Certificate Programs. Lyndsay is already certified in Real Estate and Finance, but if you aren’t already, go get additional certifications in the industry.  This is also a good way to expand your skills and explore other fields without going back to grad school.
  2. Grad School. Or you can just go to grad school!  But make sure you know exactly why you are chosing the field and what you want to gain out of the program BEYOND just continuing education.  Graduate degrees can be highly specialized, so they will make you well positioned for very specific roles/fields after grad school.  If you do not have a good idea about your plans after grad school, don’t go until you know!  (Please chime in if you went to grad school and want to share your experiences.)
  3. Build your personal brand. Build your personal brand by increasing presence as a virtual “expert” on online networks, like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or create your own website (all about you!).  Gather endorsements, join groups, list all your awards and certifications, and post your resume online through all these channels.  Contribute to expert blogs, build your own blog (add AdSense to make some $ while you are in between jobs), and link back to related blogs.  The more active you are, the more visible you are.  The chances of someone noticing you is higher.  The chances of you being hired is higher.  Instead of you coming to them, the companies will come to you.  (I will follow up on this one–I think this is really important!)
  4. Read.  Keep reading books, online articles, blogs, academic journals and newspapers to stay on top of the latest trends in the industry and its trajectory.  If you can stay on top of this, you will be able to talk about the most relevant trends in your next interview.
  5. Maintain your contacts. Keep talking to people and sharing your experiences.  Even though they might not be able to help you now, they might be able to help you in a few weeks or months… and because you stayed productive and stayed in touch, you will become top of mind when they need to fill a role.
  6. Be an expert, but diversify your experiences. Even as an expert, it’s important to diversify your expertise so that you can bring together the top traits from each industry.  For example, if you take tips and skills from the tech industry (new, developing, creative) and bring it to real estate and finance (established, consistent) you can really enhance the more established industries and bring in new, cutting edge technology and perspectives.

Overall, career changes are great for your personal development, but they should really help you along the path towards a career that you will find most satisfying.  If you’re already there, continue to stay the course, but work harder on building your personal brand in the space.

Update on Lyndsay:  She was doing the right things and within a week of emailing me, she has a new job!  If Lyndsay can do it, so can you!

(Lynds, let’s get together next time I’m in NYC!)

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2 responses

28 07 2009
Lyndsay

Stef,

Thanks so much for the great advice and I know I told you already but I love your blog. Friends who aren’t even unemployed have read it too and they agree. What I wound up doing is that I went back to work for an old boss doing building sales. Now although its not orignally the direction I wanted to go in and not the most stable of professions I figured its the best way to get back into the industry, add to my experience, and get exposure. I will definately keep you updated and thanks again for all the help!

YES!! I better get to see you next time you are in NY!

PS. I love the picture..so young so innocent haha

28 07 2009
steflau

Thanks for the support, Lynds!! 🙂

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