Changing job can be an exciting and stressful experience. A career change can provide you with the opportunity to pursue a passion or to achieve new professional and personal goals. The most difficult part about changing careers is finding an employer willing to give you a chance. A job interview is your opportunity – and probably your only opportunity – to address concerns about your lack of experience and to demonstrate that you would add value to an organization. As a career changer, there are several questions about the interview and what to expect – and with little preparation, you can ace them all.
You can reasonably expect a potential employer to ask why you are interested in a career change. Employers do not ask this question just because they are curious – usually, they are trying to determine whether you are switching careers because you performed your old job poorly, had strained relationships with coworkers, or faced a variety of other issues that could affect your new career. Plus, employers want to understand whether you are serious about pursuing a new line of work.
The best strategy is to be honest. There are many perfectly legitimate reasons why people change careers. Perhaps you received more education – such as a certificate or degree – and are now qualified to pursue a new field. Your old career may have offered limited opportunities for professional growth. Maybe you have always had a passion for this new career, but were afraid to take the plunge. An employer is looking for sincerity and truthfulness when you answer this question.
You should also expect employers to ask about your lack of experience in this new field. Remember that just because you are pursuing a career change does not mean that you have no experience. Think about some skills you developed at your old job that would translate well to this new career. Certain skills like project leadership and time management are useful in many lines of work. You should acknowledge that you will have much to learn in your new career, but that you have a strong professional work ethic that will serve you well.
Most employers will ask you why you think you can be successful in your new career. With this question, employers are trying to discern whether you know anything at all about the new career you are pursuing. Employers will not believe that you are serious about a career change if you are unable to demonstrate at least a basic understanding of the work required in the new career. Before the interview, talk to friends or acquaintances who may hold jobs in the new field you are pursuing. If you do not know anyone who works in your chosen field, conduct some Internet research and participate in industry chat boards where other professionals may be happy to share their knowledge. Go to your interview prepared to discuss the new career as you understand it, and to provide some specific examples of how your skills will allow you to succeed. Researching the company will give you much needed information for the interview.
Finally, expect employers to ask how you deal with adversity. A career change can be frustrating, and you will wonder at times whether you have made the right decision. Employers want to know that you will not quit, act unprofessionally or become unmotivated during times of stress. Be prepared to discuss specific examples of times you faced and overcame challenges at your previous jobs. If you there were times when you helped other employees overcome adversity, make sure you share those stories as well. Most employers are looking for employees who have leadership skills and are committed to their coworkers’ success.
Remember that an interview should be a discussion and not just a question-and-answer session. If you are considering a career change, you likely have many questions about the new field you are entering and about the employer who may hire you. Come prepared with a list of your own interview questions to ask. Ask the employer what he or she expects from new hires, what kind of training or mentoring services may be available, and whether there are professional growth opportunities. Ask about any mandatory job skills that are required for the position. Get all the information you need in order to make an informed decision about whether you can achieve your professional goals with this employer.