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The Secret To Changing Careers

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It seems like a catch-22: to get a job in a certain function and/ or industry, you need experience doing that job or working in that industry. If you are considering a career change, you don’t have that experience.

So how can you ever change careers?

As a former recruiter who has hired thousands of people, I can attest firsthand to employers’ preference for hiring people with the exact same experience. But as a career changer who has made extreme changes in both function and industry focus, I can also attest firsthand to career changes being possible. The secret to changing careers is to minimize the change in the eyes of your prospective employer.

The reason why employers want people who have done the job is because these experienced people can add value from day one on the job with:

  • Relevant skills
  • Current contacts
  • Up-to-date expertise

If you are a career changer, demonstrate that you can add value from day one on the job by getting the above skills, contacts and expertise in your target new career. So many aspiring career changers talk about how they’d like to learn on the job. Wrong! You should be contributing to your employer, not training on their dime. Some career changers get defensive if their past experience isn’t valued. Get over it! You need to translate the benefit of your past experience to the new employer, not for the employer to figure it out.

A client who was moving from journalism to PR assumed the media overlap was enough to make a career change easy.

But her role as a journalist is not the same as a publicity role, so she still needed to spell out her value:

  • How her research and writing skills as a reporter are relevant to PR
  • How her media contacts give her an inside track
  • How her industry expertise from being on the front lines of media make her an invaluable member of a PR team

She needed to translate her old career to her new career. In doing this, she demonstrated her potential value from day one, minimized the change that she was making, and therefore minimized the risk for the employer who ultimately hired her. The secret to changing careers is to close that gap between your past career and your future target.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career expert, writer, speaker and co-founder of SixFigureStart®, a career coaching firm comprised of former Fortune 500 recruiters. Caroline is a co-author (along with Donald Trump, Jack Canfield and other leading business authors) of "How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times" from Two Harbors Press, 2010. Formerly in corporate HR and retained search, Caroline has recruited for leading companies in media, financial services, consulting, technology and healthcare.

Comments? Send them to executivecareers@cnbc.com

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