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What are the most frequent career development issues raised by young professionals?


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Making a Career Switch

Posted 17/10/2016

Here is the scenario. The professional usually has 5 to 10 years experience and has performed well in their field. But they realize that’s not what they’re passionate about. So they complete a Masters degree. But when they go job hunting armed with this new degree they hit a wall. Employers won’t consider them because they don’t have practical experience in that new field.

Some will even apply for a graduate program. But they’re considered too experienced for an entry-level role.

I frequently speak with experienced candidates in this situation. For example, the following candidates who all have about 5 years experience.

  • A Statistics Analyst now with an Accounting degree applying for a Senior Financial Analyst position.
  • A Supply Chain planner now with a Marketing degree applying for Marketing positions.
  • A Pharmaceutical graduate with several years pharmacy experience now with an MBA applying for Finance positions.

So what’s the issue? From an employer perspective, the lowest risk approach to recruitment is to hire someone who is currently performing a similar position with a similar company. So to hire a candidate with theoretical knowledge without practical experience is high risk. Even though the professional has transferrable skills.

It’s not that important for a graduate with one or two years experience but at more senior levels it becomes prohibitive.

Some candidates offer to take a backwards move including a lower salary to change industries. Employers are reluctant to accept this as they fear that once the candidate gains experience (in 12 months) they will start looking for a new job at the appropriate level.

So what do you do? The first step is to see if you can make the change through your current employer. But they may not have any opportunities.

So the next best solution is for to look for a new role that still draws on your current experience but is in the direction that you want to head. Think of it as taking an interim step to accomplishing your career switch.

Using the earlier examples, the Statistics Analyst might take a Data Analyst role working with financial data and systems. While it’s still a data crunching position the exposure to financial information represents a step towards the goal of becoming a Financial Analyst.

The Supply Chain Planner could consider a sales & operations planning position, eg. a Demand Planner. That provides exposure to the Sales & Marketing function while still leveraging the supply planning expertise.

The Pharmacist might consider a management career with a large pharmacy chain, starting out in a pharmacy manger role and progressing into business management functions.  

In all of these cases it’s important that the interim step can lead to achieving the career objective.


Image: MroverhatF