May 16

Planning a Career Change

Are you contemplating a career transition? It can be daunting thinking about the best way to approach a job search, even in the incredibly hot job market that we’re in today with unemployment lower than it’s been in years.

Here is a five-step framework that can help you with tackling a successful career transition:

1. Define your scope.

Kick off your search by identifying the things that are most important to you. The best approach is to start your search narrow and broaden out over time rather than “boiling the ocean.” Defining your scope isn’t always easy, but it can be done by answering the following questions:

  • What geographic locations are you open to?
  • What industries do you want to target?
  • What type of company do you want to work for? Public vs. private? Fortune 500 vs. a start-up?
  • What type of role(s) are you most excited by?

2. Identify all companies that meet your defined scope.

Once you’ve narrowed in on the above questions, start your research and make a list of any and all companies that fit that scope. Google is a great tool for this, but you can also use LinkedIn, Chamber of Commerce websites, etc. You want this to be exhaustive but also manageable, so if you find there are 50+ companies that align, you should re-consider narrowing your scope further.

3.Prioritize the companies to identify your top targets.

Take your list of companies and continue your research with a deep dive into each company. Stack rank the companies to narrow in on your top 5 targets, then your next top 5, and so on.

4. Research open roles and/or potential hiring authorities at your target companies.

Start with looking at job boards to identify open roles at your target companies. LinkedIn and/or the company’s website can be a great place to start, but you’ll want to get scrappy to identify all of your resources and to set yourself apart from the pack:

  • One way to do this is to identify potential hiring authorities at your target companies and reach out to them directly. There aren’t many people who are willing to pick up the phone (in addition to doing the research it takes to identify someone’s contact information), so don’t be lazy here. Find a way to stand out.
  • In addition, if you are going to reach out over email or LinkedIn, make it stand out in a positive way. Making a connection will help your to message to feel less “cold” so if you find someone who is a Bryan School alumni, mention that in your outreach, or if you find someone who is connected to someone you know, ask them for a warm introduction. Picking up the phone and calling a hiring authority is another option.

5. Track your outreach.

Create an Excel spreadsheet or another way to track what companies you’ve targeted, which positions you’ve applied for, who you’ve reached out to, current status, etc. This will help you to stay organized and track your connections for a future job search. In addition, keep track of the recruiters you’ve spoken with as well as anyone else who helped you along the way. At the end of the process, you’ll want to make sure to thank those individuals that helped to support you in your transition and let them know where you’ve landed to stay in touch for the future.

It’s worth noting that this five-step approach may seem daunting in addition to your job search, because well yes, it is a lot of work. However, I’m confident this approach will help you to feel confident that you’ve run an exhaustive search and help you to identify a number of great options if you invest the time to do it right.

About the Author:

Ashlee Wagner is an alumna of the UNC Greensboro Bryan School of Business, currently living and working in Greensboro. She serves on the Bryan School Alumni Association Board and is involved in supporting a number of other community organizations. She serves as a Practice Leader at Charles Aris, Inc., leading the executive search firm’s Financial Services recruiting practice.