Four Steps to Getting Work Experience in A Different Career Field
You may be looking for work experience whilst working a full-time job because you want to make a career transition. Perhaps you want to change your career from a role in academia to a role in industry. Or maybe you have a science degree but want to work in finance. In any situation, getting work experience is an important step in making this shift. When you think of work experience, you might associate it with something you did in high school to tick off a compulsory activity. Or you might relate it to doing summer internships whilst at university. These are formal, structured ways of getting work experience that can work really well in getting you experience whilst studying. Internships can often lead to job offers for those sought-after graduate schemes.
What if you are already in a job and are looking to transition? How can you find the time to get the experience you need to make a career change? Or what if you need to experience the role or industry a little to decide whether to make the change in the first place? There are things that you can do to both gain experience and test out your new field of interest. The approach is different to the methods you may have used whilst studying and trying to get internships (although internships are still an option at later stages, depending on how much time you have).
Here are four things you can try in order to get work experience in a different career field:
Take on extra projects at work
If you are already in a full-time job, chances are there are opportunities to wear different hats above and beyond your current role. Companies are often looking for people to lead an extra project that doesn’t make up a full-time job. If there are projects that are related to a field that you want to transition into or can give you a skill in your desired field, this could be a great opportunity to develop on-the-job. This way you are contributing in your current job whilst testing out something new. A good way to do this is to join an association or group at your workplace and take on a role there.
For example, if you are looking to gain skills in event planning, you could join an events committee for a group and help organise one of their workshops or conferences. This will also give you an idea of whether you enjoy that type of work or not.
Use your network
Networking can be done in many ways, online or offline, in our outside of your current workplace. Who you need to network with depends on your career goals. It may be that the role you want to transition into already exists at your company. You should therefore look to connect with someone who is doing that role, and consider doing an informational interview with them. This could lead to an opportunity to shadow someone in their role or contribute to a project they are working on. An invaluable way of getting work experience is seeing the work being done first-hand and even better, making a contribution yourself.
Volunteering is a great way to get experience in a completely new industry, whilst offering value to an organisation. As a science graduate, becoming a STEM Ambassador is a great way to do this in the UK. Your commitment is volunteering one day per year to engage young people with STEM subjects and careers. If you are interested in a role in Science Communication, this could be especially relevant. Your company may also have a Corporate Social Responsibility team who may have links to volunteering opportunities through your employer.
Start your own project
How about creating your own website or blog in the area you are interested in moving into? This might sound scary, but it’s a way of creating your own work experience for yourself! Firstly, learning how to create a website is a skill worth having in and of itself. Starting a blog allows you to showcase your ideas to the world and hones your communication skills. But it doesn’t have to be a blog or website, you can start any kind of project that lets you practice and develop new skills and shows your interest and commitment to working in that new industry. It is something you can then talk about in the job application process when you are ready to make that transition. It could also open up new opportunities for you when people start to notice your work.
Remember that work experience can come in many forms and doesn’t always mean doing a formal placement somewhere. Be creative in your approach, don’t be afraid to experiment and realise that these methods allow you to test out new fields. This means you are not making a sudden change and discovering that you are in a career you don’t want to be in again!
If you are ready to take your career outside the lab and want to know how to start, book a Beyond the Lab Breakthrough Session here.