Career Advisor: Advice to Career Switchers

by Aaron Gold

If you are one of the many first year students pursuing an internship in a new industry or function, you may be preoccupied thinking of how to best position your previous experience for the switch. I know from experience that the recruiting journey can feel like an uphill climb at times, but keep your head high. After all, what is business school about if not pursuing your career passion?

Here are some tactical tips for career switchers as you map out your recruiting plans.

Highlight Transferrable Skills

It is easy to miss out on opportunities to highlight skills and experiences that are highly transferrable to a new industry. While you perhaps cannot immediately close the gap on job-related technical skills, these are rarely a differentiator: think more generally. Do you have strong analytical skills to help solve the company’s problems? Do you have a history of getting things done and overcoming obstacles? Perhaps you have related experience but on a smaller scale or in a different role?

Also, do not forget about the soft skills. When researching companies, read between the lines to determine what really matters. Does the company place a high premium on self-initiative? Teamwork? Working across teams? These are all opportunities to write compelling resume bullets that demonstrate fit for the culture.

Demonstrate Interest in Addition to Skills

While many companies will state that they welcome applicants with diverse backgrounds, there is plenty you can do to make it easier for them to take a chance on you. All hiring managers will want to know that their interns are eager to learn and are passionate about the industry, company, and function. Use your resume to signal this passion. Are there case competitions you can enter to demonstrate your interest? Is there a conference or trek you can help plan? A lab class to bring your skills up-to-speed? Remember, even if the “Experience” section on your resume does not tie directly to the role you are pursuing, you have plenty of time to bolster the other sections with activities to support your candidacy.

Take a Broad and a Long View

Changing careers certainly has its challenges, but the journey is made easier if you give yourself more options. If you are unable to land your “dream” internship, consider other opportunities that will speak to your interests and build your competencies. For example, if you are struggling to gain traction as a technology product manager, keep an open mind to finance, operations, and marketing roles that can build your industry knowledge and professional network.

Remember that recruiting truly is a marathon and not a sprint. While the extra challenges posed by changing your career focus may be stressful in the coming months, the investment will be well worth it when you find a role that matches your passions and strengths.

Aaron Gold '15

Aaron Gold '15