Capable vs competitive
A strong job market with low levels of unemployment would appear to be good news, but it can also be misleading. There may be many available jobs, but that doesn’t mean a person lacking key qualifications or relevant experience will easily secure a role in a new field or discipline. It will take more than an employer’s desperation to prompt them to hire an “unproven” resource.
There is a huge difference between being capable of doing a job and being competitive for it. The difference between “capable” and “competitive” could be described with this analogy. In sports, you may know how to swim, but that’s different from being able to swim competitively. You may be capable of swimming in a private pool or in the ocean for a limited time, but would you be prepared to swim at an Olympic athlete’s pace with the endurance to cover miles and miles? The proof comes from winning races, or at the bare minimum, being clocked by a coach. The same is true in the job market. You may possess basic skills that would apply to the new job you are interested in and you can assume you would do well, but the employer will be looking for proof. The proof lies in your past performance and how it was measured. If you have expanded your education/training, you still need to demonstrate how what you know impacts what you do. Even if you are granted an interview and the likability factor is somewhat equal, it is very likely that the candidate who can report measurable evidence of success will be the one selected.
If you really want to move in a new direction, there are some basic steps you can take to help with your transition. The following tips are for someone who is interested in making a change.
Start out by talking to people who are doing what you think you want to do. Find people who are already doing the work you are drawn to. Make sure you develop questions for them to address any assumptions you might have. It’s not uncommon for work to sound “sexier” than it really is. It’s also not uncommon for sellers of training programs or advocates for certifications to sell the skills the training may provide without really addressing specifically how to become employed doing the work. Be sure to ask people actually doing the work about their education or the training they may have received that has proven to be beneficial.
The candidate who can report measurable evidence of success will be the one selected.
When a position is posted, know what the employer really needs and be prepared to talk about how you can do it. Many times, the requirements that are listed in a job announcement are vague or, at the least, very basic. It’s possible for many candidates to meet the requirements if they are taken literally and out of context. Even though a recruiter or HR specialist will screen resumes for key words and select candidates for interviews, they may not fully understand the actual functions of the job and what the words represent or why. It’s up to you to know and understand that well enough to be able to relate your background. The real moment of truth is discovered in the interview when the hiring manager asks a question about the specific functions by asking for an example of very specific work in the same context as the role they are filling. Unless you really understand what is being required of you and why, a vague answer isn’t going to cut it.
Be clear about why you want to make a change and make sure your expectations are realistic. The benefits of making a change typically do not come overnight. There is usually some kind of an investment involved. If you’ve assumed you will make more money, it’s important to know how long it will take to get to the level you see others earning. If you think you will be happy, make sure you have factored in the time it may take to get up to speed and allow you to feel comfortable, secure and happy in the new role. Set realistic goals for moving on. Giving premature notice to your current employer without really testing the waters or being clear about what will happen can be disastrous.
Don’t wait until you are miserable to make a change. If you have suffered for years in a role that is less than satisfying, the longer you wait to make a change, the more desperate you can appear and the harder it will be to muster up the energy to do what is needed. Get some help along the way to evaluate why you are unhappy in your current role so you don’t end up with similar issues in your next role. Like any other conflict, making a change doesn’t guarantee the problem will be gone, only that the work might be different and the environment might change. Your behavior is still going to be a contributing factor. You’ll be much more competitive when you are able to present yourself as a fresh and positive addition to a team, with the right skills and experience to do the job.