I’m a mid-career professional badly in need of a career course correction. For the past ten years, I have held a variety of positions in the pharmaceutical industry, not really out of desire as because I fell into it and one position after another pushed my resume further and further in that direction. I now feel that I’ve gone much too far down this road and want out as soon as possible.
My hope is to find a position which better matches my interests, ambitions, and earlier experience. Those interests lie primarily in the areas of media and politics, and the kind of work I’m seeking would ideally involve some writing. My earlier experience–from my twenties–involved some work in these areas. But that was a decade or more ago and thousands of miles away. I’m no longer in contact with possible references from that period of my life, and some of the organizations I worked for then no longer exist. I’m not sure how to find the kind of work I’m looking for at this point, and I’m not sure whether or how to utilize my more recent experiences in seeking a new direction.
Any advice would be appreciated.
Dear Career Changer,
I can definitely tell you how to facilitate a career change, but of the two ways to do it, one way can take up to two years to make happen.
(1) Meet one person who has sufficient decision-making power that he/she can simply hire you to do the new job without regard to how strong a fit your career background is to the new job. This way relies purely on who you know rather than what you know. I’ve seen this approach work when two people meet through some shared interest like a hobby, sports, religious affiliation, or community cause. The challenge is that your new co-workers might be very confused or resentful about why you landed a job for which your career background doesn’t seem to fit, but that’s a problem you can solve as you learn new skills.
(2) Become an industry insider in the new field. Here are some suggestions about how to do that:
- Get some up-to-date training in the new career field. Even if you only take one college course, you can list that course at the top of your education section of your resume. Certificate programs are excellent, too, because they are time-limited and give you exposure to all the instructors and your classmates, some of whom will likely be working already in the career field you are targeting.
- Meet people in the new career fields by joining professional associations and attending conferences. More networking happens at these two places than anywhere else. You can create a section on your resume for “Professional Memberships” and include the professional association there. This makes you look like you have already committed to the new career field.
- Consider completing some media-oriented projects on a volunteer basis because doing so will look good on your resumé. Or volunteer for a political campaign. Even if you only do a couple of new things, that will dramatically change how your resume looks. Also, writing is very much a portfolio-based career. You will be asked for writing samples when you pursue jobs involving a lot of writing so the payoff in doing some articles or press releases or something similar is that you can build your writing portfolio.
- Think about ways to build bridges between your current job and your desired jobs. Could you join a PR firm that needs someone with expertise in talking to the media about pharmaceuticals? Could you join a government agency that regulates the pharmaceutical industry? Put keywords from your current industry into a job search engine like Indeed.com and see what types of jobs come up that are in line with your career interests. Then start finding ways to build your resume so that your skills and experiences are a better fit with the criteria for the new job.
Career changes take patience, but people make them happen all the time, so it can definitely be done.
Hope this helps!