Apparently I have more in common with Martha Stewart than I could ever imagine. I don’t have blonde hair nor have I been to prison, but we’re both career switchers. Ms. Stewart started her career as a model before she became an authority and magnate on all things home and lifestyle.
I started my career running a program I also founded at the University of Toronto. I left that position to pursue an MBA at Queen’s with the intent of pursuing a marketing strategy career in a non-education sector after graduation. It’s been almost a year since I graduated and although I haven’t made that successful career switch yet, I have learned some things along the way:
1) Focus!: when I say I love marketing, I REALLY mean it. So it didn’t really matter to me what sector I ended up in as long as it was marketing. Not so smart. By following this approach, you adopt some unhelpful habits such as networking with too many people. While it’s always great to meet new people, when searching for a job, it’s best to stay focused on those from your chosen sector. You’re more likely to get relevant advice and make important contacts in the organizations you’d like to work for one day.
2) Volunteer: one of the most difficult aspects of career switching is proving to recruiters that you have relevant experience. Although I successfully used marketing techniques to grow a University program, recruiters still prefer those with direct functional experience. What I’ve done to address this is to volunteer as a marketing consultant for a non-profit. I’m not only gaining more relevant experience, but also helping out an organization to alleviate poverty. Unpaid internships are another way to showcase what you can do.
3) Grow: career switchers, especially, may find themselves lacking in function or sector-specific skills. For example, communication roles tend to require French language skills while marketing roles tend to require knowledge of statistical and database software. Use wallet-friendly resources such as the library and Internet to help build those skill sets.
Career switching can be a tough road, but staying focused, volunteering to gain experience, and building your skill sets will help you get that dream job in a great organization. Just remember to avoid ill-timed stock transactions once you get there.
John Paul de Silva is an MBA graduate seeking work while volunteering as a marketing consultant for a Toronto non-profit. When not working on the 4P’s, he can be found at the gym, pool hall, rap record store, foodie place…or one day, a magical place with all those things rolled into one location. Follow him @jp9desilva