A little community participation on the job changing topic

Got an e-mail from one of my blog readers, let's call her M. She was one of the folks I had an e-mail conversation with about changing your career focus. Nice words from M...she appreciates the honestly, I appreciate the frustration of being on the other side of the situation. I hope she doesn't mind me quoting her e-mail since I'm not sharing her name:

Your point on taking risks on someone who doesn't have the track record is well taken, but I can also see from a different perspective how this also can potentially be a lost opportunity in finding someone who has the maturity and passion to really excel. I find it ironic that the industry as a whole is willing to take these risks on students graduating from college who are looking to explore, and yet unwilling to take those same risks on people who may have a few more years of experience but have the maturity to know where they want to go, or how to take advantage of such opportunities.

She's right. I also think there's a comfort level taking risks on new grads because they are less opinionated about what *works* in the business world (oh come on, I know I have an opinion on "how things work"...otherwise this blog would be b-o-r-i-n-g). But on the flip side, career changers bring so much maturity and different perspective to the table. Are hiring authorities worried that their next desired role is just an experiment? That they are trying something new because they failed at what they did before? Or do we embrace the risk taker?

I know that I have coached people that realize that the position they recently accepted isn't for them...or sometimes their new company isn't for them. I tell them, don't suffer...if you are sure you made a mistake, make a change. But what if the change is the type of role. F Scott Fitzgerald said; "There are no second acts in American lives".  But the man died in 1940...way before Al Gore invented the internet. I think that it's often in the second act when things get really good.

M joked about starting a support network for people in the same situation. I actually think that is a great idea. I don't want to close the book on this topic. Because my advice about career changing isn't about whether you should do it but how you should do it (small steps...and there are always exceptions). So I am committed to keeping the dialog going on this topic going if you want to. Since I have already said quite a bit on the topic, what about a little community participation? Think of me as a facilitator...how can people out there support each other? Should we have an open thread? Guest blog by someone whose navigated this issue in their own career? I mean, this isn't really community building unless we are all talking to each other. Let's share (oh no...flashback to camp...campfire..John Denver songs...). There are enough of you out there thinking about making a change. How can we help? Don't be shy.

Comments (7)

  1. Gautam says:

    I think career changes are dictated to a large extent by the things that propel us, at that moment…as I said in this blog post of mine..


    So things that were ‘meaningful’ to me 2 years ago seem meaningless to me now..how do I change that? I negotiate and try to get out of my rut (or "comfort zone") …this is when "previous experience required" becomes a bugbear.

    It is easier to get a transition with your current employer than to ask for a change with a new employer…

    Look at it this way, every hiring decision is a risk that the organization takes, and asking for previous experience is a way to mitigate that risk…that is because there are lots of factors behind a successful talented person…like great organizational processes, a great team, top management support…you don’t know if in your organization he/she will be as successful…but you still take a chance as the person has done this thing before…

    On the other hand hiring someone new without any previous experience in that kind of role actually means taking the most risk…sure it might pay off handsomely , but typically management is about reducing risks in most organizations except for truly innovative ones !



  2. Gary Short says:

    These sorts of problems are not only faced by those who wish to move to another "type of" job, e.g. from marketing to finance.

    I suffer the same problems in software engineering. Where I stay, (Dundee, Scotland), is a hub for games development, but even though I have 14 years software engineering experience, I’m locked out of these jobs. Why?

    Well you see these companies wont take people who do not have experience on the development environments. Since Sony and the like wont sell the development kits to anyone who is not a games company you can’t get experience on them unless you work for one, and you can’t work for one unless you have experience. Talk about a catch 22 🙂

  3. StevenG says:

    Remember when Chandler on "Friends" made a career change and took a job as an unpaid intern in order to break into the advertising biz? Very few adults making career changes would make that sacrifice and work side by side with college grads. We tend to think that all of our years doing "x" should qualify us a shot at doing "y". To be fair, I have had the same issue with art school grads who think they have done "work" because they created a couple of designs in school (the same amount of work that a professional designer does everyday before lunch). The willingness to start over and to demostrate a respect your new profession by admitting that you dont’ have the same level of skills is what is often lacking in the adult making a career change.

  4. Monia says:

    i forget to say that i’m from poland so you can don’t understant what’s wrong on my page but don’t worry if you click on "ano… jak zawsze nic…" or something like that you’ll comment me 😀 i’ll be wdzięczna 😛 wiem że nie wiesz co to znaczy ale już mi się nie chce po waszemu pisać 😛

    i’m weak in english language 😛

    bye bye

  5. DY says:

    For me it’s pretty simple. If one is tired of the same old result, you can’t expect much change by repeatedly doing the same thing. I’m fairly certain that’s true from all sides of the table. Different results from different people, changing jobs, employers taking a hiring risk, it comes down to a willingness to grow for everyone. The day we stop dreaming is the day we stop living.

  6. Nick M says:

    DY is absolutely right: if you keep doing the same thing and getting an undesirable result, you have to change how you’re doing it.

    That said, this seems not only the case for people changing careers but also people changing business size or industry. For example, after working at a Fortune 100 I moved on to smaller companies and enjoyed them just fine. Then, after a long soul-searching period I realized bigger companies are better for me, and vice versa – for the company as well.

    But, the years of small businesses always get the same skeptical question: "I notice you’ve worked with small companies before now, why do you want to come back to a big company?"

  7. Anil says:


    This is how I look at a career change …

    First, a company (read HR) needs to read the candidate’s resume carefully and determine whether he/she is an outstanding performer.

    Second, check whether there are any transferable skills and education that the candidate could bring to the table.

    Third, when you interview the candidate, probe whether the candidate brings a fresh perspective to the team and the company.

    Finally, probe whether the candidate is willing to take a pay cut for making the transition.

    Now, I would like to respond to Gautam.

    The best team consists of people with diverse experiences. Of course, a hiring manager will always want to minimize risks, but lower the risk, lower is the pay-off. Therefore, the hiring manager should take calculated risks and not just try to fill a position.

    I agree that the hired person may soon find out that he/she is not happy with the lateral career move. However, I believe that managers have to set the right expectations before hiring the candidate. It is also necessary to chart a career path before hiring anyone. I think most managers do not do so. If a manager takes interest in the careers of his/her subordinates, discontent will be minimal. I have personally experienced this in my company.

    After all, most ambitious people are interested in growth. This is how companies should nuture talent. Talent management is not just about hiring people with sparkling degrees.

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