Our recent in-depth Thinkopolis report shows that most Canadians now change jobs ever 2-3 years. Most of us can expect to work roughly 15 different jobs over the course of careers. And the majority of people will now work in two or three different career paths entirely in their working lives. (You can read the full report at Workopolis.com/research.)

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Frequent job changes allow to expand your range of experience, broaden your network, and keep your skills from getting stale. And those are your real career currency.

But if all of your work so far has been in one field, how can you get employers in another sector to give you a chance to prove what you can do?

The truth is that employers aren’t generally in the business of giving people chances. Giving chances is actually bad for business.

Employers can however, be convinced to take a chance on you. Every time a company hires anyone, they are taking a chance. They try to mitigate the risks as much as possible by surveying resumes for the most qualified people, interviewing those people to find the best fit, and then conducting background checks to check for red flags.

Still, when employers sign that contract, they’re taking a gamble. Resumes can be exaggerated, people who are great in interviews aren’t always great on the job, and background screens miss things. Hiring the wrong person is messy and expensive.

So your job as a candidate is not to get employers to give you a chance, thereby asking them to make a poor business decision as a favour to you. Your challenge is to give potential employers a good reason to take that chance on you. You have to show that you have the skills, the passion, and the willingness to work hard and be an asset to their team.

How can you do that?

The keys to landing a job in an industry where you have no experience:

    Demonstrate your skills and accomplishments
    Take a look at everything you’ve done so far, on the job, at school and in your personal life. List the accomplishments that you have made and see if you can find a way to tailor them to the industry that you’re targeting.

    Think about your skills that can apply across industries, such as project management, communication, research, and relationship-building. Are you a skilled and effective writer or public speaker? Have you led a successful team or taken a project from plan to fruition? Can you manage a budget or schedule multiple tasks for a team of people? All of these skills and experiences can be applicable across industries.

    What accomplishments do you have that demonstrate how you are able to generate successful outcomes? Describe them as examples of what you can achieve in your targeted field.

    Get some more experience
    If you really don’t have enough skills and accomplishments to land an interview, then you’re going to have to go out and get some. Look for internship opportunities, volunteer work or short term contacts where you can pitch in on complex projects, develop your skills (especially the transferable ones mentioned above) and accomplish demonstrable success. You can also use these opportunities to increase your personal network.

    Show passion
    Do whatever you can to land an interview. When it comes, dress professionally and make the right impression. Use this occasion to demonstrate your passion for the industry, the company and the role. People like to hire those who are enthusiastic about the particulars rather that someone who’s just looking for a job. Be upbeat, positive and as charming as possible. People also want to hire someone whose company they enjoy, since once they hire you, you become a part of their daily life. Employer surveyed say that all other things being equal, they will select the candidate who seems the most motivated for the role.

    Take any job, and do it well
    If you’re offered any role at all – even one that is a step down from your past work or what you were hoping for – take it. It’s easier to prove your value and work your way up from the inside. Truly motivated, hard-working, ambitious people do not stay in entry-level positions for long. Come in early, stay late. Take any opportunity to work on projects for other departments so that you can network internally and learn as much as possible about the company. Hard work, enthusiasm and a positive attitude go a long way.

Everything that you do well will convince your employer that they made the right decision in taking a chance on you – and every connection and skill that you learn along the way makes getting your next, bigger and better chance easier. And you’ve earned it; nobody had to give you anything.


Peter Harris
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