By Kate Hamill
Many years ago, I had a side gig as a professional resume writer. I wrote thousands of resumes for people in every field, at all levels: from recent college graduates to blue-collar workers to retirees to entrepreneurs to CEOs of enormous companies. But there was one kind of client that I enjoyed working with the most: the career-changer, someone who is actively switching professions or has had experience in many fields. Career-changers consistently had the most interesting professional paths—which made for the most interesting resume-writing experience! They were driven, passionate, and inquisitive. They could often quickly identify their most transferrable skills, and articulate exactly how they proposed to use those skills in new ways.
What I mean is, they were cool. But these women and men were also very nervous about revamping their resumes—and with good reason. Career-changers know that it can be hard to get hired when your resume doesn’t follow a straight and narrow path. They know that overtaxed recruiters can take one look at diverse work experience and pass over a candidate: whether out of fear of “job-hoppers,” uncertainty about where to place people, or sheer lack of imagination. My experience (and the experience of my clients) confirmed one thing, however: that companies benefit when they actively try to hire career-changers. Here’s why:
1. They’re not afraid to take a risk
Career-changers aren’t afraid to think outside of the restrictive, growth-inhibiting box. It takes real guts to change your career path (especially later in life, or after you’ve made a dent in another profession). Career-changers tend to be focused, driven, passionate people who aren’t afraid to start over or try something new—and that’s incredibly valuable to any business.
2. They bring valuable perspective
Ever heard of a polymath? It’s not only a good word to use in Scrabble (7-letter bonus!); it’s an asset that any company should be praying for. A polymath is a person whose expertise spans many different areas. Leonardo da Vinci was one. So was Ben Franklin, Hildegard von Bingen, etc. Career-changers are polymaths of a kind, bringing a wide variety of skills from their “previous lives” to any organization—skills that single-career-track professionals are less likely to have explored. That translates to innovative thinking and a more holistic, well-rounded approach to challenges. By garnering a wide variety of experiences, career-changers add skills to their tool kit, instead of subtracting. That only benefits employers.
3. They tend to be open-minded & love learning
People who start over in new fields can’t afford to be rigid; they’re automatically more open to learning, thinking creatively, and collaborating. These are people who are independent enough to have changed paths, but who are also flexible enough to adapt to new habits, and that makes them more likely to be able to lead (or work within) a team effectively. In fact, one could argue that by hiring a career-changer, companies may even be hiring a “smarter” employee—since learning new skills has been proven to sharpen the brain! I didn’t keep track of each client that I wrote a resume for; most interactions consisted of an interview, a writing session, and a cheerful thanks-for-working-together. But the career-changers I heard updates from were often thriving in new environments, and their employers were benefiting accordingly.
The old, one-track-career days are fading fast. Adapting your company’s recruiting policies to welcome candidates with diverse backgrounds is a great way to ensure you find the best talent out there. Interested in changing your career? Check out the full-time, immersive courses offered at General Assembly that will give you the job-ready skills you need to land your dream gig in web development, product management, or user-experience design.
Kate Hamill is a writer at the Freelancers Union, which serves 250,000 independent workers and entrepreneurs nationwide. This article was written for the blog at General Assembly, an innovative educational institution for entrepreneurs and start-up companies, and is republished with permission.