Career Switchers: Set Yourself Up for Success 

Want to make a career pivot but not sure how to approach it? Looking at your MBA to transition into a new career? Career switching is possible—but your success will depend on your ability to convince your target audience that you will be able to add value to their organization. To do that, we recommend conducting significant research, developing a positive and future-focused mindset, and presenting a well-crafted career narrative. 

Here are six practical steps to improve your chances of success when switching careers:

  1. Set realistic goals. Often, career switches happen in baby steps. So, consider shifting industry, function, or location—but not all three at the same time.   
  2. Become an “insider.” Read extensively about your target industry, learning about your target company’s position in the market and its products and services. Develop an opinion on key trends and players in the market. 
    1. Gain an understanding of the skills and areas of knowledge required for the job.
    2. Gather information on the hiring process; look for evidence of other career switchers.
    3. Identify ways to make yourself a more attractive candidate.
  3. Think broadly about the relevance of your background. Build a compelling career narrative without having direct work experience in your target role/industry. For example, if you are interested in consumer products, maybe you have consumer-facing experience through work in the media and entertainment or retail space. Perhaps you have direct operating or investing experience in the consumer industry. Or maybe you work in an adjacent industry, interact with a key industry vendor, or are just a devoted customer to the firm and admire its business model.  
    1. Clarify the “why” behind your interest in the role/industry.
    2. Identify specific examples of your ability to learn new things and adapt to new environments in order to show natural curiosity and demonstrate relevant transferrable skills.
    3. Find themes that tie your experiences together in an authentic and genuine way.
  4. Build your resume with new technical skills or hands-on experience. Volunteer for work outside of your core responsibilities. Consider pursuing a pre-MBA internship or attending pre-MBA recruiting events such as ExperienceBain, McKinsey’s Early Access, and BCG Unlock. Take online certification classes. For example, if you want to be an investment banker, learn to model from Wall Street Prep.
  5. Cultivate relationships. Invest heavily in networking to confirm your interest in the space, gather information on the recruiting process, and learn how to position yourself for success. 
  6. Believe in yourself. Be persistent and diligent in your search. You may receive a lot of rejections before you achieve your goal, but learn from each of them and use them to make you an even better candidate. 

If you are interested in learning more about switching careers, check out Jenny Blake’s book, Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One, or Dawn Graham’s book, Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success

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