At Harrison Careers, many clients come to us because they took a graduate job straight out of university that they weren’t entirely happy with – now they want to get into a different business area.

This article contains advice for the candidate who wants to change the trajectory of their career.

I always say that the two biggest determinants of your long-term happiness and success in life are who you marry, and your first career after university. Your choices can bring you joy or misery, and great wealth or mediocre earnings for the rest of your life.

After you have graduated from university, and have started your career, it is very difficult to change your career path. Many candidates elect to do an MBA or other Master’s degree to enable them to change direction. In this article, however, we will discuss changing your career path without going to Business School.

If you are working in Finance, and not in the “Front Office”, revenue-generating areas, then you probably realize by now that you are perhaps perceived as a second-class citizen in your financial services firm. (Have a look at our article about getting out of a support role and into a revenue-generating role here.

The following advice refers to moving out of your existing business area into a new business area – in other words, a radical career change.

    1.   Get a qualification or certification to signal that (a) you have some real knowledge of this new business area, and (b) you have genuine curiosity and interest, so are worth investing time in.
    2.   Recognize and accept that neither external recruitment agents nor internal company recruiters will be interested in selecting you for interview because (a) you are no longer a fresh graduate and (b) you do not have relevant work experience in this new business area.
    3.   In addition to qualifications or certifications, which will teach you the theory, you will need to learn practical technical knowledge about this new business area. The best way to get that knowledge is to network with professionals in this area. You need to participate in “informational interviews” so that you can ask questions about what these professionals do, and get advice from them about how you can persuade employers that you are worth interviewing, despite not having the relevant experience.
    4.   Plan your networking campaign. Without relevant experience, your best (and perhaps only?) way to get this done is to get someone decent senior to be your champion. The work you do in #3 above to set up informational interviews will leave you with a smaller list of people in the business who may be willing to help you to make this transition by referring you for interview to their employer. Please see Getting Interviews to learn about the kind of networking campaigns you must conduct in order to get the interview opportunity.
    5.   Get ready for interviews. You must be able to articulate why you can do this new role (albeit with some training), even though you have no relevant experience. The best way to do that is to show off the technical knowledge that you have developed.

To get my job offer from Goldman Sachs in Convertible Bond Sales I had 47 interviews. Yes, really. Every interview asked the same question: “You’ve spent 5 years as an accountant – how can you possibly make the transition to bond sales? I know accountants and they don’t make good salespeople.” My solution was to talk about my deep (and, at that time, only theoretical) understanding of convertible bonds – and even to recommend which two convertible bonds my interviewer should buy right now! They saw my technical knowledge and listened to my sales pitch. It overcame their objection of “no relevant experience”.

At Harrison Careers, we spend all our time helping clients get and pass interviews with elite companies. Get In Touch to let us know how we can help you!