Career change FAQs
Changing career or coming back from a break are common situations, which come with their own unique sets of challenges and uncertainties. We posed some of the most frequently asked questions around this topic to Henry Morse, associate director at accounting & finance recruiters Robert Half UK.
How do you cope with a reduction in income and should you have to?
Salary reductions can happen when switching careers, depending on how important industry-specific technical knowledge is for the role, but it’s important to make sure you’re not selling yourself short just because you’ve worked in a different field. It’s important to research the market thoroughly at the start of the job search so you can see where your existing skills overlap and how you can add value straight away. And, although taking a reduction can be frustrating, it can often be compensated by other factors like better working conditions or greater creative freedom. Besides, in the long term the additional skills and knowledge gained from spanning multiple industries can make you more attractive as a candidate when you become more senior.
Can you switch to a similar seniority level when you change careers or sectors?
Maintaining seniority when changing jobs is tricky. Sometimes you can take a drop without even moving industries, for example if you’re moving from agency to client-side, because there are different skills required. Seniority isn’t solely determined by your industry-specific experience, but by factors like how much line management or budget responsibility you’ve had in the past, which can vary significantly from company to company, even if the role title is the same.
Demonstrating softer skills such as being able to handle tricky clients or manage a large team can go a long way to compensating for a lack of technical knowledge, especially if you’re able to outline how you could add value from day one. These softer skills are often essential to making a horizontal move into another industry, rather than diagonally downwards.
How much of a risk are you to a hiring manager if you're seeking a change or coming back from a break?
Provided you can demonstrate that you’ve done your research and come prepared to interview, there is no reason for hiring managers to be skittish about taking on someone who is switching careers. Firstly, it demonstrates initiative and a willingness to be bold in pursuing your ambitions, especially if you’re able to clearly articulate why the role attracted you in the first place. Secondly, while career switchers may lack some industry-specific knowledge, they can often bring a fresh point of view to help spark new ideas and initiatives.
What do you do when you’re told you don’t have enough or the right experience?
Missing out on a job because of lack of experience can be disheartening, but its important not to over-interpret a single rejection. Often, rejecting a candidate due to lack of experience occurs because the company has a small team and isn’t in a position to offer the necessary training and mentorship on the job. In these instances, applying to larger organisations who can draw on more internal expertise may be fruitful. If you find yourself being rejected repeatedly due to lack of experience, it can be worth looking at what industry-specific qualifications are available that can help bridge the gap.
Will further education and industry specific qualifications help a career change?
It never hurts to have any industry-specific certifications or qualifications related to the field you want to get in to, and they can often work in conjunction with your prior experience to make you stand out as a candidate. For example, if you’re leaving customer service to move into accountancy for the first time, the ACCA Qualification proves that you have a good grounding in the technical details and terminology needed to do the job, while drawing on your experiences in customer service can demonstrate you also have the softer skills needed for a client-facing role.
Can additional qualifications take the place of relevant experience?
Professional qualifications can compensate for a lack of professional experience to a degree, however, there are always some aspects – such as managing client relationships or managing a team – that will require a level of professional experience that cannot be replaced by additional education or qualifications. The good news is that the majority of such skills are transferable across industries, meaning that a combination of soft skills learned in a different career and good industry-specific qualifications can make a candidate highly attractive when making a lateral move.
How willing are companies to provide training and should I consider this when applying for roles that I don’t have all the skills/experience for?
The degree to which companies are willing to invest in training and allow for on-the-job learning varies greatly, depending on the culture at a given business, the seniority of the role, and urgency of finding someone to come on board. Ultimately, deciding whether or not to apply for a role comes down to a judgement call. If you have some relevant experience but lack a few of the requirements on the job description, it’s worth throwing your hat in the ring but it’s always worth speaking to recruiters and other people who know the role so you can understand which criteria are non-negotiable and which are just nice to have