5 Tips on Changing Careers and the Job Search

Whether you’re looking for a new role or want to make a career change, searching for a job can be a daunting process. But it doesn’t have to be! From updating your resume to brushing up on your interview skills, making yourself stand out among other applicants can be a fun and exciting experience. 

According to Stony Brook Senior Alumni Career Coach Marie Parziale, success in finding a new job or changing careers is similar to making a New Year’s resolution. “You need to be willing and open to making a change and doing something different,” Parziale said. “If you are having trouble going it alone, it’s important to get the right support, and — most importantly — you need to start doing something every day to work toward it.”

Below are some tips from our Alumni Career Center to help with your job search, ease your mind and find the perfect job (or second) career.

Make Your Resume Stronger

Most recruiters spend about a minute looking at a resume and searching for keywords, so it’s important to say a lot in as few words as possible. Your resume should showcase your skills and career potential, and tell your professional story. Find a layout that allows you to highlight your strengths throughout your career. Use bullet points to quickly draw the recruiter in and explain your experience. Remember that your resume should include experience that is relevant to the position you’re applying for.

Some recruiters use AI programs to screen resumes for keywords in the job description and filter out candidates who match job requirements. While you might want to consider using AI tools of your own, such as ChatGPT and Grammarly, remember to use them as a guide. Ultimately, you should be using AI to enhance your resume, not to create it for you.

Pro Tip: If you’re looking to change careers, figure out what skills you have that can be applied to the new profession you’re interested in. For example, if you’re a reporter, your ability to react quickly to breaking news demonstrates the ability to work quickly, which is a valuable skill in any field.

Craft a Cover Letter

While some job postings don’t require one, a thought-out cover letter can help you stand out from your competition. The letter shouldn’t be longer than a page and should allow your personality to come through. It’s an opportunity to expand on your strengths and explain why you’re perfect for a role.

Pro Tip: Tailor your cover letters to the roles you’re applying for. For example, highlight something from the job listing and mention how your skills apply to it.

MORE: Resume and Cover Letter Writing Tips

Narrow Your Search

Once you have a strong resume and cover letter, it’s time to start your job search. Job boards like LinkedIn and Indeed can be rather broad. Narrow your search by using keywords for the role you’re interested in. Use the alert function on websites like LinkedIn to sign up for email notifications when positions that match your interests open up. If you’re interested in a particular company or organization, head to their job opportunities page on their website and look for any openings that pique your interest. Make sure to sign up for job alerts from companies you’re interested in working for.

Pro Tip: Even if you don’t check all the boxes for a position, apply anyway. You can further explain your experience and why you’d be a perfect fit in your cover letter. And if you have a profile on a job board website like LinkedIn, make sure your information is up to date so that companies and recruiters can find you. A good way to do this is to update your profile at the same time you update your resume.

MORE: Looking for an exciting career at Stony Brook? Check out some of the opportunities we have on our Advancement team. 

Stony Brook University Advancement team members build relationships with friends, foundations, corporations and alumni to raise funds for the university, Stony Brook Medicine and the Long Island State Veterans Home. There are a variety of opportunities on the team — from working with alumni and donors to fundraising positions. And remember, our alumni make excellent team members because they understand why someone would have a lasting connection to Stony Brook and could inspire others to support Stony Brook. 

Students and Alumni Networking Mixer in April 2023 (Photo by Tyler Mooney)
Students and Alumni Networking Mixer in April 2023 (Photo by Tyler Mooney)

Network

No matter where you are in your job search, it’s important to network. This can be easier than you think. Think of any friends, colleagues or work associates you’ve met over the years and reach out for advice or an introduction at another organization. If you’re looking to change careers, speak with colleagues and friends in those positions. Learn more about their career path and what skills you have that could help land a similar role. People are often happy to talk about their careers. You can also attend job fairs or networking events. Bring copies of your resume and follow up with people you connect with for further information.

MORE: Join the new Stony Brook Mentor Platform

Pro Tip: If you’re interested in working for a specific company but they don’t have any job openings, reach out anyway for a quick call or meeting to learn more about the company. When a job opportunity comes up, you can apply and follow up with the person you met with to express your interest again. You could also consider connecting with people from that company on LinkedIn, such as the recruiter or hiring manager, for more information about current or future roles.

Students and Alumni Networking Mixer in April 2023 (Photo by Tyler Mooney)
Students and Alumni Networking Mixer in April 2023 (Photo by Tyler Mooney)

Build Your Interview Skills

Interviews might make you nervous, but if you’re prepared, it can help to calm your nerves. Research the role as well as the company. Reflect on your own career highlights. Think of three professional skills or stories to discuss. Practice some common interview questions with a friend. Dress professionally, arrive early with a notebook and a pen to jot down any questions or notes for yourself, and bring a copy of your resume. Think of the interview as a conversation, and follow up with questions toward the end. 

Pro Tip: Always send a thank-you note! Mention something you discussed during your interview and highlight a couple of things about yourself that you believe make you a great fit for the role.

MORE: How to Be Successful in an Interview

BONUS: Virtual Interview Tips

If the interview is virtual, it’s important to check your network connection, lighting, background and camera ahead of time. You should still dress professionally — just as if you were interviewing in person. Try not to read from your screen. In fact, the only program open should be Zoom. If you want to refer to notes, jot them down on a pad next to you — you don’t want to be clicking around on your computer. While pets and children can be cute, they could be seen as a distraction to a prospective employer looking to hire you. To keep the interview professional, set yourself up in a separate room, turn off any background noise and keep your phone on silent. And make sure to still send that thank-you note.

-Christine McGrath

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