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3 common mistakes when switching to a new career

Switching careers is always an adventure - somewhat scary, but also exciting, and there are a lots of things to consider. We devote a whole seminar to teaching tools on how to make the process safer, easier, and faster, because it is always easier to have a tried and tested system to follow, than to do it alone the first time, although the latter can be somewhat amusing, as you can see in this video, which gives real life examples of what can happen if you are not aware of these common traps.

In this blog, though, instead of going into the entire system, we'd like to introduce the subject by addressing 3 common mistakes when starting that new career, which can be quite easily avoided.

1) Mistake no. 1: Assuming that conventions in the new career are the same as in the old career

What do I mean by that?

Most people, who first starting to look for jobs, or go to interviews in a new career, automatically assume that the way they go about it is the same as in their old career. They look in the same channels (say, the newspaper, or certain online publications), they format their CV/Resumes the same way, and they assume that the interview process will be somewhat the same. This can lead to some interesting surprises - the example in the Video may be extreme, but it is by no means the only thing that can happen.

Different industries have different approaches when it comes to getting that first job, and in a lot of cases, there will be regional differences as well. In some industries, a trade newspaper or online publication may be the right way to get in, in other industries, you can submit your CV online until you get black and blue, but you will never get in, unless you have an agent, and the right agent, or someone on the inside. "Open auditions", or whatever the equivalent is in your industry, say, Linked-in ads, or job board ads, may only be publicity stunts, or ways to fulfill a compliance goal, with no real chance of your CV getting seen anywhere.

The documentation you need also differs. In some industries, a CV is all you need, in others, you need a portfolio, or a video, or an audio, or an online presence, the right school, or someone on the inside who can vouch for you. In some interviews you need to bring written references, in some you need to bring your passport to even get into the building to get to the interview, some are not interested in written references but would like you to name a person they can call, and in most interviews you need to be ready to not only answer certain questions about yourself and your CV/resumes/portfolio etc., but you also need to be able to demonstrate the ability to perform, or to solve a problem. It helps to rehearse this before you get there, in case your brain goes blank under stress.

It is imperative that you find out what the right way in is beforehand, and what is expected once you get in front of someone, because it can make or break you.

Courses usually sell you a general strategy that may or may not work once your target market gets wise to it, but do not rely exclusively on it - I am not sure I got a single job that way. Competitors can be a source, but they may either not be experienced enough to find the best way in, or they may have a vested interested in you not finding the most efficient way - including those who make some extra cash by teaching about the subject.

So do your research. Ideally, try to find a mentor who is already on the inside and willing to help, someone senior enough to not see you as a threat, who has proven that he/she has both a) managed the task of getting in him-/herself, ideally without family or university connections that you don't have (unless he/she is willing to use those connections), and b) is truly willing to share.

2) Mistake no. 2 - Not being fully prepared

This sounds like a no-brainer, but it happens more often that you would imagine - quite often unintentionally; the example in the video is an example of that. I was even told by a Human Resources professional in my new job in a legal department of an investment bank to take a couple of weeks off, and take a break before the job starts, while she was dealing with security checks. She no doubt meant well, knowing how stressful that job was, but had I heeded her advice, instead of buying a book about the subject of my new job and reading every line of it with a fine tooth comb, I would have lasted in that job for not more than one week.

You may also be told that you will be trained, or you expect to be trained, because it happened in your last job. Do not count on that. "Training" may look a lot different to what you are used to, and it may assume a lot of background knowledge that you do not have yet, but that you could easily get.

So, prepare as much in advance as you can. In some cases, that may mean being persistent, as the example in the video shows, in some cases that may mean start early - you don't want to learn how to surf when you see the house-big wave cresting, you ideally start a couple of years beforehand.

3) Mistake 3 - not having a Plan B, C, and D

Sometimes, things don't work out the way you expect - external circumstances change, other people have other ideas of what you are supposed to be doing than you have, or the job turns out to be something completely different than you expected. If you only prepare your Plan A, you may find that if you find you have to vary your approach, you may be too inflexible to improvise, because your brain has been programmed with the one "right" approach. In our seminar, or the up-coming Webinar, we have an interesting example story of what can happen - you don't want to go there! Having some backup plans may be the difference between getting the job and not getting it, between keeping the job and getting fired.

So, do prepare your Plan A, and prepare it thoroughly, but do have a Plan B, C, and D as well, and put some minimal preparation into it, without compromising your Plan A - if anything, it will teach your brain to look for alternatives when you temporarily run into a wall, and it will give you some reinsurance that even if Plan A does not work, you may still get where you need to go with one of the other plans. That should not affect the energy and focus you put into Plan A, but it should keep you from panicking to a degree that you freeze, when things don't go your way.

That was it for today. I hope this helps, and maybe we will see you sometime in the future at one of our seminars or Webinars!

Have a beautiful week and all the very best,

Petra Lohmeier is the director of Change Implementation Management Ltd. She is uniquely qualified to speak about the subject of changing jobs and careers, as mostly due to changing external circumstances beyond her control (lost Visas, year-long strikes, federal vs local politics, or just local politics), she found herself in situations again and again, where she had to break into a new industry, sometimes doubling or tripling her income, always learning new skills in the process. She has worked in jobs as diverse as being hired as dancing paper bag in a parade, Legal Counsel in a major international Bank, professional actress, singer, paper-in-half folder in a factory (really!), Transaction Manager for Structured Transactions in OTC Derivatives, Teaching Coordinator at a teaching hospital, communication skills trainer for doctors aspiring to become Specialist Registrars, parachute packer for the Special Forces of the military, Animal Carer, Assistant Film Editor for a NY Independent Film Festival winning film, Accountancy Clerk, Negotiator for Goldman Sachs, Team or Change Leader in global regulatory change projects in international organisations, Senior Legal Consultant and Derivatives Lawyer, Change Manager, Life Coach, and Director of several companies, including one of Network Rail’s Affiliates. All this happened in industries as diverse as charities, governmental agencies, hospitality, entertainment, tourism, and investment banking, in 4 different countries, changing continents 4 times in 10 years.

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