When working with a client setting out on a new career path I offer these words, “For everything there is always a “first time.” No one starts out as an expert but with persistence and hard work you will close that gap between beginner and expert in no time.” It’s hard to remember the journey from that first real job to where you are now professionally. Over the years you’ve honed your craft, built your network and raised your profile. You know what you can do and you know what you are worth. Now whether or not you are asking for what you are worth is another subject I’ll cover in a future post. When you decide to transition to a new sector you will likely be doing things you’ve never done before so assessing the value of your new work may seem difficult. Actually, it’s not all that difficult because no matter what type of work you do there are skills that you’ve mastered along the way. Ask yourself the question, “What are my marketable (read: valuable) skills?” I recommend making a list and ordering the list with your most valuable skills at the top. Skills are skills no matter the industry and skills are portable. If you are an effective communicator in the business sector then you can be an effective communicator in politics. If you can brand and market a beverage then you can do the same for a political candidate. Look at your list and circle the skills that will be of most benefit in your new career. When you are revising your resume list those skills first and when you go on a job interview emphasize those skills. Once you understand the landscape of your new profession you will understand how to put your talents to work.
I never advise taking a volunteer or unpaid positions to gain experience when the goal is securing a compensated position. At the age 19, I was a full-time college student and working full-time at a boutique criminal defense law firm. Wanting to earn more and learn about another practice area I applied for a position at a midsize law firm that specialized in representing creditors, specifically large financial institutions. My interviewer asked me why I was applying for a job in a practice area for which I had no experience. I answered without hesitation, “I am smart, I learn quickly, I know how to prioritize my work and I can managed varied tasks without skipping a beat.” Having done my homework, I knew the job required those skills and I knew I had them. I also knew the position paid on average $32K a year and that’s exactly the salary I stated I would accept. Knowing what the job required and knowing I had those skills gave me the confidence to ask for what I knew I was worth. Do your research on the position you want, know the relevant skills you bring to the negotiating table and don’t be afraid to ask for what you are worth.