JEANINE “JT” O’DONNELL AND DALE DAUTEN
Dear JT and Dale: For 15 years, I have worked in customer service and I want to change careers. But every time I apply for a new job, I get rejected. I was told that because I had no experience, I couldn’t find a job. How is someone supposed to gain experience? – Hunter
VALLEY: Let’s start by putting ourselves in the recruiters’ shoes for a moment. They’re probably overworked — that’s one of the reasons they’re increasing the staff — and they probably make the mistake of seeing hiring as a distraction from their “real job”. So, they ask HR to hand them a list of candidates who need the least amount of training possible, which is another way of saying someone who has held a similar position. This means that they are not closed-minded or rigid, let alone seek to be charitable towards newbies; no, they just struggle to do their job and achieve their goals.
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JT: And there you have the sad reality: the current job application process essentially shuts out anyone looking to change careers. The simple solution is to focus on direct contact with employers to explain to them why you are changing careers. You should be prepared to explain any transferable skills and why they will help you be a good candidate for this new type of position. Studies show that only 39% of people who are hired have the exact experience for the job, which means that 61% of people are hired because of their personality and their ability to learn new skills on the job. This is what you need to promote to employers.
VALLEY: Even so, if you’re someone well into a career, you don’t want to start over and go back to base pay. This is why you would evolve into a new career. You are in customer service, but you would like to be, for example, in project management. Seek to get closer, step by step. You could do this by finding a job in customer service at a company with a large project management staff. You would work on getting to know these people, and they would learn to trust you and want to help you learn their stuff. Thus, you become an easy rental. Or, in another evolution, you seek to lead projects in your field of customer service, those where project management professionals see affinities. The point: don’t be the rookie; be easy rental.
Dear JT and Dale: I have a new manager. She is extremely kind and caring and worries about everyone’s mental health. Unfortunately, I find it too intrusive and invading my personal space. She is always “up to date” and asks me how I feel and if everything is fine at home. I find that really unprofessional. How can I politely tell him to back off? — Valerie
JT: I would ask to meet her one-on-one and tell her that you really appreciate that she cares so much about her employees. Then tell her that you’re a private person and that her repeated attempts to extricate your feelings are actually making you feel uncomfortable. Ask her if she would be ok to accept the fact that you are fine and if you are not fine, you will be proactive and contact her. I’ll just be very gentle with her feelings — my gut says that while she cares so much about everyone, she’s very sensitive herself and can take it personally if you’re too direct.