How to Apply for a Career in a Totally Different Field

by Evan Harris, Communications Committee

Calling an Audible

Since football season is upon us, let’s talk about audibles. Career audibles, that is. Long gone are the days of working at the same company for your entire career. Considering our first, second or third move is nothing new for YPs. But what if you’re considering jumping into a totally different field of work?

Calling a professional audible to work in a new field may sound impossible. But after planning, preparation and the right conversations, you could find yourself on your way to a new path.

Step 1: Do your skills match?

Let’s start with a simple one here. If you can’t find any common ground in your experience and skillset when looking for a job in a totally different field, then there are going to be some problems. Soft skills are one thing – and as a YP, you’ve probably been refining those at all the Metro EDGE events – but your hard skills do need to be able to translate fairly well. Many industries require similar skills. Others require specific hard skills that are usually learned through years of education and training. Look at your skills and the industry your thinking of moving to and find some common ground. And if you can’t find common ground, find a way to quickly pickup  said skills, whether through taking up a new project or informational interviews.

Step 2: LinkedIn

Time to get your research glasses on (hey, I need to wear them now when I do work on the computer). Once you’ve Googled all you can, find people who work in the field you’re looking at on LinkedIn. Compare education and experience. Do they have a similar background? Can your experience complement anything? Use LinkedIn as a case study of what people in this field do and how your expertise fits in.

Step 3: Get Caffeinated

So you think your skills translate into this totally different field of study. Several LinkedIn searches make you feel good about your experience. Now you go straight to the source. Network, get coffee and maybe use your Metro EDGE contacts to talk with people in the industry. Embrace your inner reporter and really find out what you’re getting into and if a move would be the right fit. Sitting behind a computer will only take you so far. You’ll need to talk with someone to really get a good idea. Pro tip: Ask interesting questions: What does your work/life balance look like? What do you wish you knew when you started in this field?

Step 4: Go and Apply

There’s a famous saying – you know what you know, you know what you don’t know and you don’t know what you don’t know (bonus points if you guess who said that without using Google). If you’ve done the research, you’ll be in a good spot for a potential move into a different field of work. You will know what you need to and hopefully know what you don’t to prepare. At the end of the day, you will never really know unless you just go for it!

Evan Harris currently works for Edelman Public Relations. He previously worked for the California State Assembly and is a graduate of the University of Oregon. Outside of the office, you can find him and his wife chasing their three kids, hiking or planning their next trip to Lake Tahoe.