Q. My brother is a really smart, underemployed construction guy. He is very mathematically and quantitatively skilled, mechanical and knows lots about technology; however, he has never used any of these skills on the job. He has taken college courses and gets A’s. He can’t do construction forever – it is taking a toll on him physically. I know it’s a big career change. Is it possible?
A. Changing careers is a challenge. It takes a lot of work, good networking and sales skills; yes, it is possible, but not easy. It also doesn’t happen in one giant step, but a couple of smaller steps.
Your brother needs a quality resume and some really strong target companies where someone with his background will be well received. He also needs to be able to prove he is capable of the office job and technical work he wants to do. Other job seekers have part or full-time, former jobs or internships and the accompanying references. Your brother will be competing with these people.
Any career changer needs to look at two parts of his or her current job; the function and the industry. Your brother is building in the construction industry. He knows he doesn’t want the building function anymore, so research the construction industry to see what types and how many office jobs there are in small, mid-size and large construction companies where his other skills can be used. Similarly, who are the vendors he deals with? He needs to build up those relationships and network discussing the types of roles he would like to get to. There may be interim jobs that are more clerical in nature, but that can be a starting point.
I would suggest he put together a creative advisory board of his biggest supporters; you may be the leader. This group needs to brainstorm other industries and company names where he can begin his research. Good target companies might include those in the cable industry, car dealers, tech high schools, college IT departments or technology firms who rehab equipment. Can he look at Best Buy’s Geek Squad for part time work as he transitions?
This advisory board also needs to be the group to get him introduced to people who can get him closer to the types of jobs and hiring managers he’s targeting. His resume, though needed, won’t be the tool that carries him through the door. His fan club of references will be needed to make introductions. They should look at any industry where entry level tech skills are needed. The goal is for him to prove himself and move up quickly.
The resume needs to include some specifics as his construction work may not showcase the skills he wants to use. You said he has successfully completed college course work. Get the transcripts out, the course name and grade. Has he received any certificates? Microsoft has a troubleshooting certification for its platform. What about Excel? If he uses any of these tools on the job, the information should be included on the resume.
Many employers use outside companies to determine if candidates skills are current and as strong as they present. Total Testing is a provider of off-the-shelf, validated tests that range in skill from beginner to advanced in office and clerical areas, Microsoft Office skills, call center and customer service, industrial skills and more. He may decide to take some of these tests on his own and present the scores and data to potential employers as additional proof of his capabilities. If he can develop a relationship with a placement agency, it may send him through this battery of tests so he does not incur a fee.
He needs to put together a plan, and start devoting time to making this happen.