When you’re hoping to make a career change into a new industry, there are a few things you probably already know you need to do.
You should tailor your resume to your new field, highlighting your transferrable skills. You should write a strong and enthusiastic cover letter. You should figure out how to easily explain your career change to people in interviews or while networking.
But something many people don’t consider is how important it is to match your online persona with your offline goals.
Say you’re looking to make a move from sales into HR. You can explain the move in your cover letter and tailor your resume all you want, but if the hiring manager Googles you (as he or she is almost certainly going to do) and finds no indication of your interest in HR, it’s going to leave a question mark in his or her mind. It won’t necessarily prevent you from getting the job, but it certainly isn’t helping.
Wouldn’t it be better if your online presence just screamed, “No, really, I am perfect for this job!”?
Let’s make that happen.
The first step: Get a personal landing page, which will give you a totally blank slate to show off whatever you’d like on the web. If done right—on a well-known service (like Squarespace), with a headline that is your name and a URL something along the lines of [yourname].com—this should show up on the first page of your Google results pretty quickly, making it more likely that people will find the information you want.
Then, use the tactics below to fill it with information that will show off why you’re a fit for your new dream career. Some are simple tweaks, and some are more long-term plays, but all will give you a leg up in landing the gig.
Take a Different Approach to Your Bio
I read a great article on Medium recently called “Never Tell People What You Do.” The gist is that, in your bio, elevator pitch, and the like, you should stop talking about what you do now or what you’ve done in the past, and instead describe what you want to be doing. It’s great advice for anyone who wants to grow in their career, but especially for those looking to make a major change.
When writing your bio for your new personal website, LinkedIn summary, or anywhere else, don’t take the traditional approach. Ditch describing your current role or listing off past awesome (but unrelated) accomplishments, and instead focus on communicating your passion for your new career, touching on transferrable skills or values that make you desirable, and making it clear that you’re serious about this change.
You could approach your bio similarly to how you’d think about a career-change cover letter, tying your experience to where you want to be. But here are two more creative approaches.
1. The Product Pitch
Think about yourself as a product for a minute. When you’re on a product’s website, you don’t learn about everything that went into its design and all the iterations it’s been through in the past, right? You see a highlight reel of relevant features that make it enticing!
Try to do the same for yourself. Think about the aspects of your past experience, belief system, and personality that make you a strong candidate for this new career, and really highlight those in your bio.
For example, if I were trying to make a move from editorial to UX, I might highlight how I’ve used an aesthetic eye in my current work, how my current role helps in thinking about the contents of a web page, and how I have strong empathy for other people. The icons add a nice little visual touch, which shows I care about design.
Whatever you do, make sure you feel confident in what you’re saying—exaggerating your strengths or listing skills you don’t yet have won’t get you very far.
2. The Q&A
Another approach is to think about the questions you might get asked about your career change—and confront them head on Q&A-style as your bio.
Using our sales-to-HR move as an example, some of the questions you might answer: Why are you making such a big change? What skills do you bring from your experience selling that will make you a great candidate for HR roles? Why should someone hire you in this new field?
This is a pretty direct approach, but if you have a strong story for why you’re making the move and why you’d be an awesome candidate (which I hope you do!), then acknowledging that you know your career path is nontraditional and spelling out the unique traits you’d bring to the table can be a great way to remove questions from a hiring manager’s mind.
Share Your Thoughts and Expertise
Even if you don’t have experience in your new industry, you probably have plenty of thoughts, ideas, and opinions on it, right? So, show them—using your online platform.
As soon as you decide you want to make this career leap, consider starting a blog that’s tied to your new landing page where you can show your thought leadership on your new field. Write about a current event in the industry and your take on it. Analyze a project a well-known brand did. Interview a major player and write it up (this is also a great way to make connections!). Once you feel confident about your work, try submitting it as guest posts to publications in the field to help expand your reach. By doing all of this, not only will you appear to be more qualified for your dream job, you’ll actually start to become it, learning more and more as you write.
Not much of a writer? Take it to Twitter! Share industry articles several times a day. Quickly comment on updates in the field. Participate in Twitter chats. Reach out and engage with thought leaders in the space (again, a great way to gain more connections). If you’re going this route, you can even pull your Twitter feed onto your website under the bio, so the content is easily accessible to visitors.
With either one of these strategies, it’s important that you’re dedicated to doing it well and doing it for the duration of your job search. Hiring managers can smell a half-assed attempt a mile away, and if they see you only have one blog post or just started tweeting about the topic a day before you submitted your application, they’re not going to believe that you’re really passionate about your new field.
Do (and Show Off) the Work!
You can talk all you want, but the best way to show you can do the work is to start doing it in your free time!
Figure out the most desirable skills for the industry you’re trying to go into, and then start creating examples of your work that shows them off. This will be harder for some roles than others, but we’ve got some tips to help you create a portfolio no matter what you do.
Want to get into sales? Create a sample sales deck for a product you love (or for yourself as a potential employee!). Looking to move into social media? Create a mock campaign for a brand and run it on your own social channels for a couple days to show off how you’d approach it. Want a job in growth marketing? Start doing experiments on your own site to improve viewership, and create a deck explaining what you did and what the results were.
You could also reach out to friends, nonprofits, or small businesses and volunteer to help them with work related to the field you want to move into—so long as you can show it off on your site after the fact!
There are so many creative projects you can do that will not only give employers a peek at what you’ve got to offer, but will help you learn more along the way.
No, none of this is super easy, but unfortunately, making a career change isn’t super easy either. What we can tell you is that it’s not only worth it, it’s absolutely possible—and a clearly targeted website and online presence can help make it happen.