Ready for the next chapter in your career but don't know where to start? Here's what you need to know. 

For many of us, we finish school (high school, college, or graduate school) and take a job. Ideally it is in our field, but for a great number of us, it is not. That BA in History only goes so far if you're not looking to teach, but collaboration, research skills, and an overall work ethic are still valued and suddenly you find yourself in a sales role. Now, it's been eight years in sales positions, and you are ready to move forward. Whatever the goal, you need to move forward in your career – and you don't have a clue how to start.

Determine your goal

The first step: determine your goal.

Are you changing fields? Would you simply like more money or new responsibilities? Do you want to apply your developed skills in a new way? Is your current role holding you to a tough travel schedule and you would prefer some permanence? By defining your goals, you can begin crafting your professional brand and identifying positions that are in need of someone with your background.

Checklist of skills

Secondly: create a checklist of skills.

What can you offer a new company or offer your current organization in a different way? This is where you are going to be innovative. Rather than focusing on the defined skills of your current position, consider how those skills could be adapted. As a sales professional, you may have a strong background in building relationships. Perhaps you have led teams or facilitated training seminars. You may have conducted some market research to determine new territories or leads. All of this is relevant to your current field, but can be adapted to show your value in a new industry as well. Training experience would be applicable in an HR or education role, or even in any management position. Market research and analysis demonstrate critical thinking, and relationship building shows personality and people skills.

Link skills to your goal

The third step: link those skills to your goal.

By doing this, you are able to identify clearly for your target-hiring manager what you offer. Just because the job posting suggests they want three years of HR experience, don't write it off. The question is can you translate sales experience into HR skills?

Approach your target

Finally: approach your target with this information.

If you are seeking a promotion, you may present this to your boss as an outline of the value you offer your company and demonstrate why you should be considered for the next step. If you want a raise, this information can help you to speak to the additional skills they would need to find in a new candidate if you were to leave, again strengthening your argument that you deserve to be paid more. If you are changing fields, you now have a preliminary cover letter developed by showing how you can apply your background to a new position or experience. And if you are simply focusing on creating a brand for yourself, streamlining your background into something meaningful and easily represented on LinkedIn or social media, you have created a brand message and career summary.

Now you are able to walk into an interview with eight years of sales experience and explain why you are perfect for that Marketing Manager or Recruiter position. You have made your skills universal and you have answers for people who may need help seeing beyond the job description.  

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