A few years ago, after working for several years as a software developer, I decided to change my career path and pursue a job position that is more business and less R&D, a hybrid role between the functions. Very quickly, I realized that, nowadays, it is not enough to update your resume and send them all over the place – there is a need to do much more than that in order to achieve your dream job. My dream job, by the way, was Product Manager at the time.
This guide has several sections and completing all of them will guarantee that you get your dream job in few weeks time from now, subject to your background, goals, and the time and effort you’ll put into the process. It is very important to have a notebook (digital or not) dedicated to this process – you must document every step of the process, every meeting, every post you read – as this will make your career switch process better and faster!
It might surprise you but actually the first thing you should do when looking for a career change is conducting research about different industries that might be of interest to you. Nowadays, technology is everywhere and you should think deeply about where your passions lie, what excites you – automotive, sports, or even art. In each industry, there are many startups and technologies to explore. A certain job position can be exciting one day and a bit less exciting in another, but if you work in an industry you love (like how I love education for example), you will be happy most of your working days. After choosing an industry, find about 10 companies in this industry with mission statements that excites you. This helps to not only force you to think about the different sub-industries within your passion area, but gives you clear targets towards which to aspire.
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Every few years, there are job positions that get new names, like how IT manager became DevOps manager. However, in essence, most positions can be divided into several functional departments: Sales, Marketing, Finance, Product, Operations, R&D, Design, HR and Support.
In general, any company needs a client that should buy its product. The sales team is in charge of contacting potential customers, meeting with them, and trying to close deals with them – it is absolutely an art to make a sale, in particular if you are trying to sell a product that is still under development. The sales team gets their leads (the list of potential customers to contact) from the marketing department. The marketing team is responsible for publicizing the company and its products in social media, emails, conferences, etc. and for deeply knowing the relevant types of people that their messages should reach.
Next in line is the product team who is responsible for translating the customer’s needs into defined requirements for the R&D team. The product team essentially specifies all of the product features and how each of them should behave. The design team helps to bring these requirements into life by visualizing them. Then comes the most famous team in every startup company – research and development, or R&D in short. They, as the name suggest, develop the product and the technology.
After a deal is made, the support team is in charge of helping the customer with any question or problem they may have. The operations team is responsible for making everything run smoothly, such as deliveries from vendors and to customers. Lastly, the finance team controls all the money related issues, from managing employees’ salaries to helping the CEO with a future IPO. All of these departments are critical to making a company run smoothly! However, as an employee, working in each department has its own pros and cons and I will go into each one of them in different posts. In any case, you should list your current skills and think which team from the described above would be most interesting for you to join.
Click here to learn more about what job position is best for you.
Nice work – the first steps focused on research are done! You have realized which industry excites you and which position fit your skills and interests you. The next task is networking. As your network of friends and colleagues becomes bigger, your ability to find your next job and succeed at it doubles! There are two steps in order to complete this section.
First, update and upgrade your social media profiles. If you don’t have any, you must have at least an updated LinkedIn profile, which is currently the most widely used social network for employment. Most companies have a presence on LinkedIn and also publish their open positions on it. Second, find at least 30 people that currently work in the position that you want to move into and send them Connection requests. It is very likely that many of them will Accept, upon which you should send them a message that you are interested in this position and would like to have a short chat with them, over a coffee or over the phone. I guarantee you that more than 6 of your 30 will agree and that is what we need – 6 calls with people that have experience in this position. What you should do in those calls in the next section.
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Let’s Have Some Fun
If you completed all the previous sections you should celebrate! You have done a lot to get here and can already feel your next job around the corner. Now it is the time to become an expert at your next job. Wait? What? Yes – you read it correctly – the employment market is very competitive (for the interesting positions) – and you should know as much as you can even before your first day at work.
The first step is talking to your new LinkedIn Connections from the previous section. In these conversations, you should ask as many questions as you can about the job, their interactions with other departments in the company, their day-to-day activities, their responsibilities, and the tools they are using to improve their performance. For example, if you are looking to work as a product manager you must be familiar with tools like Trello, Asana, MixPanel, etc. In addition, you should ask them about blogs, podcasts, and online lectures you should follow and read/listen. Lastly, ask them if they have someone in mind who you should speak with to further your learning and if they can introduce you to them.
Think about it – you are talking to 6 people, if each of them introduce you to only 2 people, you already made close connections with 18 people that are doing the job you want to do – AMAZING! Following these conversations, make sure to read, listen, and watch any relevant content until you get to a point where you feel that you know the jargon, the tools, and the job. Ok, it is time to get to business – applications!
Click here to learn more about becoming an expert at your next job.
Time to Get to Work
By completing the previous steps, you are already better than most candidates for your chosen position – trust me, I have been in this from both sides of the interview table. Remember the list of companies you have from the beginning? I hope you updated it along the way! 🙂 In any case, this is the time to approach them and apply for an open position.
If you can apply through a referral from a current employee that knows you, this is the best. Companies frequently give preference and priority to referrals in their recruiting pipeline. Otherwise, search LinkedIn for the company’s employees, find the manager of the team you want to join, and contact them on LinkedIn. Once they accept, tell them that you are exploring your opportunities and would love to have a short call. For the ones where you had a good call, you can ask if they have an open position. I know it might sounds crazy, but that is how I landed my first job as a product manager. After this, your chances will be much higher than by uploading your resume to their website (which, trust me, nobody reads thoroughly).
If none of the companies you want have your desired position open, you have 2 options – either to expand your list of companies (within the same industry); or to start from a different position with the hopes of being promoted or moving to the job you wish in a year or more. Don’t worry – it goes fast!
Take a deep breath and give yourself a pat on the back – you have done a lot! In just few weeks, you realized what interests you; you increased your professional network significantly; you learned a lot about your next position; and you landed your first interview! This is great! Stop for a second, think about everything achieved and smile. Yes, just smile. If you enjoyed the journey, please join me in the next part of this guide to finally land the job of your dreams.
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