So you want to make a career transition, but don’t know how to articulate that in your cover letter, resume, and interviews? How do you create a bridge for potential employers, between your past and what you are capable of?
In reality, it’s not much different than doing what you would do to change jobs within the same profession. In either situation, you are aligning yourself with that potential employer.
Before I jump in, let me remind you that the key success factor for all job searches is networking and relationship-building. That’s never going to change so it’s important to build a strong network throughout your career, especially if you ever need to make a career transition.
But even with a excellent list of contacts, you still have to convince employers (and contacts) you can successfully shift. They have to believe you. Here are a few things you can do to achieve that:
Don’t Just Tell, Show
People resonate more with stories and examples. You can tell someone you are good at reading charts, but it’s better to give them examples about the kinds of things you have reviewed on charts or an experience where you caught a mistake on a chart. You can tell them about your ability to relate to patients, but it’s better to share with them that your patients quickly become your friends, or how you met one the other day at the grocery store and connected with them.
Study the Job Opening
Draw a line down the center of a piece of paper. On one side, list all the qualifications for a job you want to transition to. On the other side, write out what you have done that is directly transferrable.
If they want experience in charting medical records, identify that you did charting in dentistry. If you if can’t find a direct parallel, then find a similarity. If they want someone with a bachelor degree in health science, write down that you have a bachelor degree in a closely related field.
In other words, come up with a response for everything even if it’s not exactly equal. The qualifiers are, more often than not, great clues into what the employer may have either viewed as a strength or weakness in the person in that position previously. So it’s important to address them.
Accomplishments Win Over Skills
Sometimes the tendency is to focus on nuts and bolts, technical skills. While those have their place, and your resume and interviews will include them, what you really need is to demonstrate successes and wins. Employers want to see that you will thrive in the position. They want to see a track record of handling and overcoming challenges.
One excellent way to do this is something I have talked about in the past, creating a CAR Sheet. CAR stands for Challenge – Action – Result and is a formula for describing your ability to handle work assignments in a way that will more clearly resonate with employers. You can read more about this here.
Testimonials and References
Testimonials and references are invaluable when you launch into a job search. I have said many times, and it’s worth repeating, it’s one thing for YOU to talk about how great you are, quite another for SOMEONE ELSE to talk about how great you are.
Third-party validation of who you are and what you have meant to a co-worker, an employer, or even a patient, is huge. As part of your submission to employers, include a testimonial/reference sheet to help seal the deal.
Like networking, this is something you should do throughout your career. Request, collect, and save ALL testimonials and references in a place that’s safe.
Ideally, you will have so many that you can create customized testimonial sheets for specific jobs. This is so that you can bridge that gap between what you have done in the past to what you are capable of in the future.
And finally, live references can be coached. You can talk to your references ahead of time and let them know you are looking to make a career transition and the ways in which they can respond to questions about your skills aptitudes that will align with the shift you want to make.