How to explain your career change

Dec 21, 2022

All done upskilling or receiving a certificate in a new industry? Now comes the fun part, getting that dream job! A common question that can come up during an interview is the interviewer will ask why you have changed careers or what made you want to change careers. This question isn’t intended to corner you or make you uneasy. Interviewers like to genuinely hear your career story because they know everyone has a story to tell, and people gain various skills in working in different industries.

To be prepared for this question, it is good to sit and map out your career journey story. Here is a simple way to do so. Let’s use Samantha as an example. She has just finished a Project Management certificate. She wants to be a Project Manager at a start-up. The job requires someone who can balance multiple projects, work with teams, and is organized.

Samantha was a waitress for 10 years at various fine restaurants and resorts. She knows how to work in fast-paced environments and in a team setting and can multitask. These are all skills necessary to obtain her desired role. Samantha sat down and mapped out her career story and then put it all together by answering three key questions that will come up in the interview related to her career change.

1- Why are you changing careers?
Samantha wants to change careers because she wants a flexible schedule, she loves working on projects and bringing them to the finish line, and she wants to be in a fast-paced organization.

2- What skills from your previous job make you successful in your desired career?
Samantha has experience working with teams in a fast-paced environment. In the restaurant industry, you have to work as a team.

3- Give an example of a time in a previous role when you solved an issue, improved a process, or led a campaign or effort.
Samantha used the STAR method (situation, task, action, and result) to think through a time she solved an issue. “At my old job as a waitress, we had a night where two people called in sick so we were short-staffed. I then needed to figure out a way to make up for the loss of two servers. What I did was we encouraged diners to eat in our patio area which was closer to the kitchen area and allowed me to move back and forth quicker. I also gave each table complimentary sodas to thank them for their wait. I let them know we were short but appreciate their business and will work as fast as we can. As a result, customers were happy and felt appreciated.”

Now if you put that all together in terms of your own career change story, you can see that a career change stems from wanting an improvement to your life, and you already hold relevant skills to make that change. If you think closely to your experience in other jobs, you have consistently been a problem solver navigating fast paces environments. From there, you can find other examples you can draw upon to tell your story and explain the excitement behind your career change.

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