A lifetime in the same job is a long time. A boring, long time.
Joan C. Smith was antsy to try something new. I had a long talk with Joan to appreciate the decisions she made to reinvent herself! This is a longer article than usual but hang in there. We learn a lot from each other. As you read Joan’s story, consider how you can apply what Joan learned and did to your own situation!
Joan began her career in social service evaluating eligibility for SNAP & Medicaid eligibility under the Federal Food Program in Northern Virginia and another jurisdiction. If Joan concluded that the client did not qualify during eligibility evaluation, Joan found other ways to help. She realized that this creative problem solving was transferrable to human resources. This is the story of how Joan changed careers!
Joan identified skills that could easily transfer from social service to the HR role she wanted:
- Both fields require heavy emphasis on confidentiality.
- Both fields utilize solid interview skills to understand client and employee needs. Asking personal questions applied to employee relations and recruiting.
- Both fields require strong collaboration to create programs and solve business problems cross-functionally.
PRO TIP: Knowing what skills transfer provides a foundation for job search in a new career.
Career transition is a process, so Joan created a plan with solid preparation. Joan sought out experts. She found inspiration for her reinvention from “Power to Fly” webinars targeting reinvention, along with a career coach targeting women interested in improving their situation. She also met recruiters through that organization.
Joan decided to go back to school to get credentials in HR. She selected a virtual master’s degree program to coordinate with her work schedule. It took 3 years to finish her Masters in HR Management with honors.
PRO TIP: Making a career transition takes time. Be patient. Have a plan. Work the plan.
Leveraging volunteer experiences to get into her new field. While in school, Joan joined Society of HR Management (SHRM). Some SHRM chapters she visited were not very friendly. People did not talk to each other often, just came and left. They would not let her volunteer as an officer. Joan knew being active was the key to networking, so she continued to search for the right organization.
Next Joan joined Association for Talent Development (ATD). DC has an active chapter that welcomed Joan’s participation. Joan felt the focus on talent development was a good fit for her.
PRO TIP: Volunteering in professional organizations is a great way to network. Each chapter is different so explore which chapter fits and which one is open to your active participation.
Get actively involved to facilitate networking. Joan approached all 7 ATD chapter board members individually about her interest in breaking into the field. Two responded including the President who emailed her info about an officer role. Joan was asked to create a video about why she was interested – that video got her a slot as Program Director – she ran unopposed and won!
The ATD Chapter gave her training on how to do the leadership roles. That training applies to her career goal. Plus, they provided her with a beautiful professional headshot.
PRO TIP: Imagine the influential people you can meet by getting activity involved in the professional career of your next career! If you really want it, jump through hoops to make it happen.
Organized LinkedIn profile to demonstrate and explain your transition. Joan changed her LinkedIn profile to create the HR presence she needed so she could add connections and begin networking. This is critical. People who look at your LinkedIn profile must understand how you fit in the new career. In fact, Joan was rejected for one LinkedIn Group because the administrator did not see the tie to HR.
Joan added her ATD volunteer experience into the Work Experience to bulk up her HR experience. She used the About section to tell her story so viewers can understand how her previous experiences support her new career in HR.
Early in 2020, Joan started to do confidential information interviews. She chose to speed up her plan because her job was quickly becoming a toxic environment. Sure enough, Joan was laid off at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Since Joan had been working her plan for years, she was ready to move closer to her ideal job. A few months later, Joan became a government agency contractor, working in a space tangentially related to HR. She is much closer to her career goal!
By the way, Joan is open to networking about HR and training opportunities! Connect with her on LinkedIn.
What can we learn from Joan’s story? Joan recommends starting with a dream to turn your dissatisfaction into an opportunity! Find a way to describe your previous experience in terms that are used in your new career. Get additional education to bolster your career aspirations. Start networking through professional organizations. Find the organization that fits you best then volunteer to increase your exposure.
I would love to hear your story! If you are stuck in your job search, get a new start with The Interview Doctor’s free Job Search Training.
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