Students and clients come in and out of my office with the common agenda: the intent to talk about career transition. These transition goals can take many shapes, such as moving from a generalist role to an analyst role, moving from a specialist to a manager, and often segueing out of one function and into another (think finance to marketing).
Regardless of the type of change they are looking to make, my advice is always the same: Get Your Story Straight.
When you are seeking to drastically alter your job responsibilities and are hoping someone will have enough faith in you to know that you can successfully make that leap (on their dime) you better have a compelling story.
Your pitch should outline three major points:
Why you want to make the change.
I often liken a great positioning statement to a funnel. This is your story, but not your story as told to a new acquaintance at an office party. It is your story extremely focused on how it relates to the position you are seeking. Every sentence you share should have a purpose in that it moves you towards the end goal of X position or Y company. Irrelevant information (undergrad major if completely different than goal, a timeline of every job you have had and all major responsibilities, where you lived for a brief stint) have no place in this statement. Instead share bits of information that help the listener understand more about why you want this role and why that is interesting. For example:
Having grown up in rural Minnesota, the farming industry was a key economic force in my town and I have had a keen interest in this area since I drove my first tractor on my uncle’s farm. After graduating with my MBA I plan to take this interest and passion to the grain industry in a finance role where I can utilize my previous analyst experience in a strategy role to impact the growth of an industry so rooted in small town America.
Proven success in core competencies of this new role
Pepper your positioning statement with ke
y achievements that showcase the skills necessary for success in the desired role. Instead of saying you want a role in consumer insights because you are data driven, prove it by stating “I quickly learned my knack for analysis after spearheading a project where we analyzed seasonal purchasing data to better understand consumer trends when planning our customer incentive programs for the winter holidays.”
Conversation points to show you have researched the company:
The theme of your story should consistently display your knowledge and understanding of your desired company, industry, or function. A former financial analyst who is looking for a business development role at an interactive marketing company should make sure the story shared includes a passion for the impacts social media is making on business, an interest in marketing analytics and an appreciation for a start-up culture.
Networking and interviewing is all about relationship building and successful story sharing. When in a job function transition it is imperative that you have a story that weaves together past experience and education in a way that explains why you are looking for a different role and more importantly why you are qualified for this new opportunity. Finally, don't be afraid to own your story. I have found that those that can successfully combine honesty and relavancy often are the most likely to land the best positions for their skill sets and in the long run are the most satisfied employees.
About the author: Maggie Tomas works at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota as Associate Director and Career Coach in the Graduate Business Career Services office. Her background includes teaching and career counseling at the college level, namely at the University of St. Thomas, University of California Santa Barbara, and Brooks Institute, where she served as Director of Career and Student Services. She is a contributing writer to several blogs and publications including Opus Magnum, Women of HR, and Job Dig.