Changing Careers with Limited Employment History

Chelsy Meyer  | 

Changing jobs is a stressful life adjustment no matter what career stage you are in. It involves uprooting from a familiar and comfortable work environment and venturing out into a new experience. For those with varied and vast work experience, it can be a little easier to leave one career and find another. However, for those that have limited employment history, it can be a different story.

If you haven’t been working in the professional world for long or you haven’t had a lot of variation in your work history, it can be difficult to find another career. Whether your employment history is limited in years or limited in variety, it’s not impossible to find the right career for you despite a thin resume. With the changing career landscape, it’s important to find the career that’s right for you. It’s not always about the gaps in your resume, it’s also about finding the right way to market yourself to employers despite your perceived shortcomings.

Limited in Years

Whether you’re changing jobs or changing careers altogether, having an employment history limited in experience can be difficult. You’ll need to anticipate the difficulties and either keep your current job until you find another, or have money saved to fund your expenses until you find a steady paycheck again. The last thing you want is to push yourself into debt, gamble with your credit, or rely on credit cards while you’re trying to find another job. Not only will this be a problem for your personal finances, but it has the potential to cause problems in your job search as well. Some employers will request to see your credit history as a measure of employment desirability, so it’s important not to jeopardize your financial situation.  

When you’re looking to change jobs with limited professional working years under your belt, it’s important to foresee the issues an employer may have when considering you as an applicant and offer a solution to those issues within your resume. If you haven’t been with your current employer long, explain why you are looking to leave and why that’s a good thing.

“I haven’t been with my current employer for a substantial period of time, but I am a motivated person looking to find the right career to fulfill my potential and utilize the skills I can offer.”

Be a step ahead of your employer and explain your shortcomings before they have a chance to discount you because of them. Your experience may be limited in years, but that means you’re energetic and ready to be molded into the right employee for them. You may have only had one professional job before, but maybe that’s because you made a commitment to the company that employed you through college — that shows loyalty and integrity. Find your negative, and make it a positive.

Limited in Variety

For some job seekers switching careers, the issue may not be a limited experience in years, but a limited experience in employer variety. When your resume has just one job listed under “work experience,” it can feel like you’re lacking in a variety of skills or contexts. It can be seen by some as a hindrance to have been with one employer learning one way of doing things, but it also shows that you’re a valued and loyal employee that they can count on. Even if you’re switching career paths altogether, you can use your negative as a positive by showing that your lack of experience is only due to your commitment to another employer that treated you well and valued you.

For those that are older and have been working in their professional niche for a long time, it can be intimidating to leave your comfort zone for a new work experience. If your career landscape has changed or you are changing career paths, you may be worried you’re not up to date on the latest education needed in your field. If this is the case, address it in your resume. Where you may need extra training, you make up for it in real working experience. Changing career paths altogether may seem like a negative on paper, but in reality it shows passion for the industry, a willingness to take risks, and loyalty to your company.

The Changing Career Landscape

Whether you view your career as your job or your passion, it’s important to view your career as an extremely important financial asset. That’s not to say you should look at the career landscape in front of you as a road paved in nickels and dimes, because it’s not all about salary. It’s just important to understand that your career can also be a successful financial strategy for you. Look into your earning potential when changing careers and be realistic about what you should be earning, because that number may fluctuate. In terms of finances, benefits have changed a lot in recent years and more companies are using them to keep employees happy and healthy. Health insurance, life insurance, paid time off, and parental leave are all examples of benefits offered to employees by more companies now than in the past.

When considering changing careers, consider how that will affect your retirement. Preparing for retirement early is important, and many companies are responding to that need within their benefits packages in terms of a 401K. Not only that, but company culture has changed in a lot of ways across many businesses. Some companies are making it a point to look into community involvement, and focus on creating a relaxing atmosphere for their employees to work in. Many career landscapes may be more competitive, less profitable, or frequently changing directions, so it’s important to look into the changing dynamics of the career or company you’re looking to join.

Making Yourself Marketable

Being an ideal candidate for your career change isn’t all about experience, it’s also about skills and knowledge that are transferable. Having an education or degree in your field is one way to make yourself more marketable to potential employers. Some other marketable skills that employers usually deem important are:

  • Communication skills
  • Teamwork
  • Problem solving
  • Determination
  • Tech literacy
  • Leadership
  • Good values

When you’ve discovered your pain points, fill them with a desired skill that is transferable between any career path. If you’re ever unemployed, find a way to fill that time with a skill-building activity that hits one of these points. This can mean taking a class, volunteering, coaching a team, or working a side job. Each of those examples can improve one of these transferable skills. Another applicant may have a lot more experience than you, but maybe they didn’t work their way through college, maybe they didn’t work two jobs while looking for the right position for them or maybe they didn’t spend time volunteering between positions. Those are the things that will make you stand out when changing careers despite your lack of employment history (in years or in variety).

Changing jobs or changing industries altogether isn’t unheard of, as many professionals are in the same boat. When you have limited employment history it can feel like you’re placed below many others which can lead to a lengthy job search. Research your career landscape and be realistic about your expectations. In order to speed up the process and find the career that’s right for you, it’s important to discover the negatives associated with your limited employment history and spin them into positives. Not only that, but find the skills you have that employers want in an employee and highlight them. Everyone has something that sets them apart from others, find yours and use it as leverage when finding the career you want.

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Chelsy is a writer from Montana who now lives in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012. She enjoys talk radio, cold coffee, and playing Frisbee with her dog, Titan. Follow Chelsy on Twitter @Chelsy5

This post was updated December 11, 2017. It was originally published June 17, 2017.