26 February 2018

How to frame your career transition

Today we are revisiting some still sound advice on How to Explain Your Career Transition that The Harvard Business Review first published back in 2013. This advice is especially relevant to those of us working on transitioning into alt-ac fields where anthropologists thrive... once we get our feet in the door.

HBR notes that making a career transition, especially one where the connections aren't immediately clear, can be confusing to outsiders including hiring agents. Luckily, anthropologists are in a good position to win over career-transition skeptics.

According to Dorie Clark, the "most important step in getting others onboard with your career transition is crafting a compelling narrative." What is it about your past employment (and we would include grad studies here!) that actually demonstrate the kinds of skills and experience suited to the role and field you want to pursue? For anthropologists, a good place to start brainstorming is this list of Skills in Anthropology from Simon Fraser University.

In your narrative, it's important to identify the underlying themes that help create a sense of career continuity rather than rupture. What is it that you see connecting these different career paths or fields? Remember that not everyone sees the logic that you might in how an anthropology background is a great fit in software design, finance, marketing... Be ready to demonstrate those connections!

Lastly, "it’s important to explain your trajectory in terms of the value you bring to others." Even though this career transition is very much about you, your career transition narrative should address why it's not only about you. For some ideas about how to frame this part of your narrative, check out our post on Articulating the Anthropological Toolkit to Non-Anthropologists and the Anxious Anthropologist's post How Does an Anthropologist Add Value to the Workplace?

If you are a PhD/ student, you might also want to check out some of From PhD to Life's Transition Q & As. These short interviews with a wide range to PhD grads and former students can be really useful for thinking about how to frame your transition narrative, and for thinking about what kinds of careers you might want to transition into!

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