Dear Matt: I'm looking to start a new career in a new field. How do I show employers I could be fit for jobs in a new field, even though I may not have experience in that industry?

Matt: A carefully organized plan will be essential as you look for a new career.
"It's the classic career change Catch-22 - breaking into a new field without experience," said Kate Schaefers, Ph.D. , owner of Twin Cities-based Encore Life Planning (, a coaching and consulting business focusing on transitions in the second half of life. "Most employers want proven talent. Hiring managers look for candidates with successful track records that can hit the ground running. Experience usually trumps potential when it comes to hiring."
That being said, there certainly are some steps you can take to help reach your goal of shifting careers, including these, according to Schaefers:

  • Know what you have to offer. Take a skills audit - a chronicle of your skills, strengths and talents. Start by examining times in your career when you have truly excelled. What skills helped you succeed? What skills do you enjoy using? These are the skills you want to enhance and market as you explore career options.
  • Market your transferable skills. The skills you've developed in one career can be applied to another, but you need to make the link. When you describe your skills in terms that make sense in a new role, you help employers recognize the experience you bring.
  • Strengthen your experience base. There are small steps you can take to gain experience. These options may add to your workload, but also add to your résumé and network.
  • Tweak your current job. On-the-job learning is a powerful way to explore a new career direction and gain valuable experience. Talk with your manager about ways to add responsibilities that will broaden your skills. If you're sure you want to make a switch, use your current job to help prepare you for your next career.
  • Pitch in on a project. Offer to help your manager or a colleague who is doing work that you want to explore. Take initiative in your current role.
  • Volunteer your services to a nonprofit or join an industry organization in the field you would like to move into and start meeting people. This is a great way to test out new skills and expand networks.
  • Update credentials and retool if necessary. Taking a class and/or getting a credential can help career changers move towards a goal and demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning - an important skill in today's marketplace.

"All of these steps can increase your exposure and strengthen your reputation as an engaged and motivated employee," said Schaefers.

- Matt Krumrie
Twin Cities freelance writer specializing in career advice