When you started college, you probably had a specific career path in mind, and perhaps you’ve followed your plans to the letter. However, in today’s fluid business environment, many job seekers are discovering their career skills are transferable to settings they never envisioned. Making such a major career pivot can be both challenging and exciting, and if you understand how to market yourself for the job you want, you’ll increase your odds of successfully traveling a nontraditional career path.

Embracing Unexpected Roles

As an example of a profession experiencing this type of role expansion, let’s look at social work. There is a growing market for nontraditional or “corporate” social workers because the professional skill sets of social workers can be assets to most businesses.

For example, when Pan American Bank decided to create a financial literacy program for children and adults in the community, the organization recruited two social work interns to lead the way. After the interns graduated from school, they joined the bank as part-time community outreach coordinators.

If you’re interested in finding a nontraditional job for your profession, using the right search terms can help. For example, a recent post from the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck online Doctor of Social Work (DSW) program offers some search terms social workers might consider using when hunting for nontraditional career opportunities:

- Corporate social worker
- Corporate social responsibility
- Cmployee assistance program

Using such targeted search terms, a social worker could find jobs like:

- Employee assistance program regional manager with United Airlines
- Community outreach and corporate philanthropy manager with Twitter
- Equal employment and alternative dispute resolution manager with the US Treasury Department.

Learning to Sell Your Skills

You may find the thought of stepping into unfamiliar professional territory quite intimidating, especially if you’re competing with others who have more experience or education in the field. This is why it’s important to identify the skills you have that employers need and learn how to sell them.

For example, USC’s DSW program recommends that social workers who want to work in the business world emphasize the following skills:

  1. Collaboration: the patience and vision to bring people together with opposing viewpoints, build connections, resolve conflict, and foster healthy relationships.
  2. Community Organizing: the ability to find commonalities around goals and identify paths to achieve those goals among groups of people.
  3. Facilitation: the skill to improve engagement among project stakeholders and enhance each employee’s connection to the overall mission and goals of the organization.

Marketing Yourself for the Job You Want

For any new graduate, knowing how to market yourself for the job you want is key. A few critical components of your self-marketing include:

  1. Internship Experience: While the setting of your internship is important, being able to articulate how an employer could benefit from your internship experiences and accomplishments is even more valuable.
  2. Cover Letters and Resumes: Make sure these essential documents are up to date and emphasize the experience and skills most relevant to the job for which you’re applying.
  3. Networking: Take advantage of every opportunity to make connections with professors, professionals, classmates, and coworkers in your field, since they may be great resources for future employment.
  4. Informational Interviews: Ask potential employers for informational interviews with people in the organization to expand your network and explore whether the job will be a good fit.

Making a career change within your field or outside it can be exciting and productive. By understanding what a potential employer needs, how your unique skill set fits the bill, and how to market yourself, you may be able to embrace career opportunities you never thought possible.

Colleen O’Day is a digital PR manager for 2U Inc. Find her on Twitter: @ColleenMODay.

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