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How to Discuss a Career Change During a Job Interview

By Maurie Backman - Jul 23, 2019 at 8:02AM

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Switching careers can be a rewarding experience -- but you'll need to get yourself hired first.

There are plenty of good reasons to change careers at different points in life. Maybe you want a career that's more creative, or one that lends to a better work-life balance. Either way, if you're looking to do something totally different, you'll need to sell prospective employers on the fact that you're not only qualified to work in the field in question, but also, that you're sure it's what you want. Here are a few ways to discuss your career change when you're called in for a job interview.

1. Discuss the reason for the change

If you spent 10 years practicing law and are suddenly vying for a copywriting job at an ad agency, your interviewer might seek to understand your reasoning for that shift. So share it. If you explain that you got bored of practicing law, but love writing and coming up with ideas, your interviewer might feel more comfortable recommending that you come back in. But if you offer a cookie-cutter explanation along the lines of "I just thought it was time for a change," you may not sell yourself as strongly.

Man in suit shaking hands with woman


2. Talk up your most relevant skills

The danger in hiring someone from a different industry, from an employer's perspective, is having that person lack key skills that are pertinent to the job at hand. You can allay those fears, however, by highlighting the skills you possess that apply to both your former field, as well as the new one you're pursuing.

Going back to our example, attorneys often need good writing skills. If you're able to show that your former job helped you master the written word, you might succeed in building a case to get hired in a different capacity that hinges on a strong writing ability.

3. Affirm your willingness to start from the bottom up

Switching careers often means taking a step backward as far as job title and compensation go. From an employer standpoint, that's a risky thing, because the last thing a company would want to do is hire you only to have you quit a few months later when you're bored, unhappy, and frustrated with your meager salary.

That's why it's important to address that concern during an interview rather than gloss over it. You might tell your prospective employer that you've been planning this career change for quite some time, and that you've been saving money to allow for a dip in income while you work your way up elsewhere. Is that a lot of personal information to share? Yes. But it might drive home the point that you're on board with a lower salary, at least for the time being.

Switching careers isn't easy, and you'll likely have some hoops to jump through in order to make that transition. But when you're applying for jobs in that new field, be strategic going into the interview process. The details you share and stories you tell will largely dictate whether you wind up with a job offer on your hands or not.

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