How to network to transition to a new career field

How to network to transition to a new career field

Are you preparing to transition to a new career field? It’s challenging to convince potential employers that although you don’t have direct work experience in the new field, you do have transferrable skills. One way to achieve the credibility you need is to take relevant coursework.

Once you’ve taken inventory of your transferrable skills and acquired any certifications or formal degrees you need, it’s time to start composing your cover letter. Of course, you’ll need to compile a list of recipients. That’s where networking comes in.

Networking is essential when you want to transition to a new career field. This is how you’ll rebrand yourself with people you know, professionals you’ll meet and with companies who are actively seeking viable candidates for open positions. Plan your networking activity with a multi-pronged approach that includes the following.

  1. Leverage existing connections when making a career change

    Once you’re fully committed to your new career field, it’s time to start sharing the news with your existing network. The more personal you can be with sharing your decision, the better. In other words, this isn’t something you want to put in a generic email blast or a quick Tweet. You want the news to come across as the thoughtful decision that it is.

    Another reason why verbal sharing is better is because it gives the other person a chance to ask questions and understand your choice. It also gives you the opportunity to expound upon your new career decision as well as to ask for their support. For close friends, consider sharing your news during a personal phone call or an intimate lunch for two or three.

    For colleagues and acquaintances, consider bringing it up during a conversation at work or at the gym. After you’ve notified all the inner circle people, then it’s okay to start posting about your new career interest on your Facebook page, Instagram account and so on. Ultimately, the more people you can inform, the wider your network may grow, and the more likely you are to eventually get a job out of it.

    Tip: When you announce your new career path on social media, make sure you mention that you’re in the market for that first job in the new field of work. Otherwise people might assume you’ve already found something.

  2. Join online community forums when transitioning to a new career

    The next networking step is to start joining online community forums with members who work in your new career field. You can find many of these groups right on Facebook. Professional Facebook groups often have an “apply” policy, so you might have to answer a few simple questions first and then you’ll be notified if you’ve been accepted into the group.

    Another online community forum that’s helpful for career growth is Reddit. This one is more for seeking and giving advice, but posting here can help you gain exposure as a professional in your newly chosen career. Conduct online searches for other online communities in your specialty. There will certainly be several that focus on what you’re interested in.

    Tip: After being accepted to a group, write a brief first post to say thanks for the add and to introduce yourself. Then spend plenty of time reading what others post before publishing your own posts or commenting on what others have said.

  3. Utilize LinkedIn to help change careers

    LinkedIn is to professional networking like Facebook is to social sharing. You probably already have a LinkedIn profile, but did you know you can also use LinkedIn to gain professional exposure and cultivate job leads in your new career? Here are three ways.

    Request recommendations

    Written testimonials lend credence to your abilities pertaining to your new career choice and help others accept you in that new role. On LinkedIn, testimonials are referred to as recommendations. The recommendations section is near the bottom of your LinkedIn profile page.

    LinkedIn provides an automated way for you to request a recommendation from your connections.

    1. Log into LinkedIn and go to your profile page by clicking on the down arrow beneath your “Me” image in the top right corner. Click on “view profile.”
    2. Navigate almost to the bottom of your profile page to the Recommendations section.
    3. Click on the “ask for a recommendation” words (not the pencil icon).
    4. Begin typing the first name of your connection. The field will auto-fill with suggested names.
    5. The next screen is a dropdown box that lets you select what kind of working relationship you had with your connection. LinkedIn recommendations
    6. The next screen is a dropdown box that lets you choose your position at the time. The options only include positions that you already have listed on your LinkedIn profile, so if you don’t see the right one listed, go back and add it to your experience.

    Tips:

    • Put your connections in place first, because those are the only options that will appear.
    • Be specific. You may have worked with someone previously in one capacity, but you want them to recommend you for a new skill that will help you transition to a new career. So ditch the generic text LinkedIn offers, and ask them to specifically speak to your new skills.
    • You must accept the recommendation before it will appear on your LinkedIn profile. If you need a revision, you can ask for that, too.
    • Another way to get LinkedIn recommendations is to email the person directly. Again, you’ll need to add them as a connection before they’ll be able to recommend you.

    Request LinkedIn endorsements

    Endorsements are different than recommendations. Endorsements from connections indicate your level of proficiency with various skills that you list.

    1. First, add the new skills you want to be recognized for on your profile page. You do this by navigating down to the “Skills & Endorsements” section and clicking on “Add a new skill” next to the pencil icon. Even if you don’t see the skill listed, you can add it by typing in the text field.
    2. When you see the skill highlighted in blue with a check mark next to it, click “add.”LinkedIn skills add
    3. Now that you have all the new skills listed that you want to be recognized for in your new career, you can ask your connections to endorse you for those skills. To do that, go to their profile page. Click on the blue “Message” button. Write your message and hit send.

    Tip: Write out your message to request skills endorsements in a template first. You’ll want to include instructions on how they can endorse your skills. Here’s a format you can copy and paste into your message. Be sure to personalize it before sending.

    Since we’ve worked together I’ve acquired quite a few new skills that I feel will help me to transition to my new career as a [blank].  Specifically, I’ve taken courses on [blank] and [blank]. I’m writing to ask if you’d take a minute to endorse my new skills on my LinkedIn profile page. To make the endorsement, navigate to the bottom of my LinkedIn profile page where it says “Skills and Endorsements.” Just put a check next to [blank] and [blank}. And that’s it! Thanks in advance for your support, and if I can return the favor, please don’t hesitate to ask.

    Publish articles on LinkedIn

    Use the LinkedIn publishing platform to write relevant articles in the new career niche you’re interested in. This is a professional way to demonstrate your expertise in the new niche without appearing like you’re overtly marketing yourself. It also helps to distinguish yourself as a thought leader in the field. Note that you’ll want to publish several articles over time, not just one.

    1. To write an article, go to the LinkedIn homepage—not your profile page—while logged in. At the top center, below “Start a post,” click on the blue text that says “Write an article.”
    2. You’ll be brought to the LinkedIn Publishing page where you can enter your title and text as well as any feature images or content images or videos you want to share.
    3. Your article will be published instantly once you hit the “publish” button.
    4. Click the right-facing arrow button at the top right to share your article with your other social media accounts. Your article will also automatically appear on your profile page.

    Tip: The formatting options on the LinkedIn Publishing page are just the bare essentials. You’ll get more control over how your final article appears if you write your article in a word processing software and then copy and paste it into the LinkedIn Publishing page. It will also be easier to edit, spell check, etc.

  4. Attend relevant trade shows and networking events

    If trade shows are relevant to your new career, it would be beneficial to make an appearance, if possible. You’ll have the opportunity to meet hundreds of professionals in the industry and no doubt collect a mound of business cards that you can nurture into job leads. Search the expo database for trade shows in the U.S. to find the ones most relevant.

    Whichever new career field you’ve chosen, there are likely to be many other people who are interested in discussing it, making new connections and finding job candidates. Networking events take place around the country, from small towns to big cities. Commit to attending as many networking events as you can until you find one or two that fit with your goals.

  5. One easy way to find local networking events is to join Meetup. Meetup has many social group gatherings, but it’s also a good place to find professional networking events. Look for groups with members whose profiles indicate a professional interest rather than a social interest.

Remember that networking should be an ongoing endeavor. Even after you’ve been successful in finding a job in your new career field, you can advance further by continuing to network. Networking serves to broaden your connections, but it can also be used to elevate your own professional platform and base of influence.