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5 Career Change Interview Strategies

Eric Ciechanowski
By Eric Ciechanowski
Last Updated: September 02, 2020
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So you’re getting back on your feet after being affected by the government shutdown, and you’ve pinpointed a position in a new industry that looks like a perfect fit.

You might still be working without pay, enduring a temporary furlough, or have lost your job entirely. If you were a government contractor, your contract might have been suddenly terminated, leaving you without the type of benefits or severance pay to which full-time employees are normally entitled upon a layoff.

It may be easy to imagine yourself flourishing in this new area, but you’ll have to explain in the interview why you’re qualified despite a lack of experience. You’ll have to go the extra mile to sell your skills as relevant and versatile.

If loved ones are counting your income and support, or if you cannot live without your recently lost compensation, below you’ll find a list of timely tips to help you prep for the interviews likely to be in your near future.

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1. Highlight Relevant Skills

When interviewing to enter a new field, draw connections between your experience and the new job’s requirements. It’s always possible to pinpoint skills relevant to other careers. Common transferable skills include:

  • Team leadership
  • Project management
  • Working independently
  • Communication
  • Team leadership

Connecting previous experience to a new job’s duties shows the interviewer how your skills line up, even if the parallels might not be immediately evident.

2. Show That You’re Ready to Fill Gaps

You’re guaranteed to be less knowledgeable than other candidates about some areas of your new industry—it’s unavoidable. However, having less experience doesn’t always translate to being less qualified.

Don’t be afraid to acknowledge experience gaps. As long as you emphasize the right related skills, you can minimize those gaps and quickly get yourself up to speed.

3. Give Examples of Your Skillset

When making a career change, your work experience might not be able to immediately speak for itself. Show interviewers that you’re capable of taking on new duties. If you want to work as a teacher, for example, perhaps you could mock up an example syllabus or lesson plan. Providing such a strong work sample can immediately communicate that you have a grasp on the position and the duties it will entail.

4. Demonstrate Adaptability

Even if this is your first or most extreme career change, you can probably think of instances across your work history when you’ve had to adapt to new situations. It might have been new responsibilities brought on by a promotion, or getting used to radical shifts in the cultures of different companies.

Communicating this to a hiring manager shows the employer that you’re flexible and adaptable enough to take on the challenges of your new field.

5. Have an Explanation for Changing Careers

You can’t avoid it: almost any employer you encounter will want to know why you’re changing careers.

Marketing consultant Dorie Clark wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “The most important step in getting others on board with your career transition is crafting a compelling narrative.” Instead of explaining that you were frustrated in your last position, or that you only left thanks to a layoff, make it clear that obtaining this new job should be the natural next step in your career.

Interviewing and changing careers can be daunting, especially when the situation was brought on by an external force like a government shutdown. If you already wanted to make such a transition, the above advice might help turn your daydreams into a reality. If the change is undesired, you may be able to transform this unexpected obstacle into an opportunity.