A few years back, you decided take some time off your advancing engineering career to see if you could fulfill a lifelong dream: playing guitar in a rock band. Unfortunately, after a year of modest success with Four Guys and a Fifth, a newcomer named Jon Bon-Something started getting all the gigs. Now your resume boasts five years of progressive engineering roles followed by two years playing classic rock at the Miss Lila’s Lounge just off Highway 99.
What to do?
Let me first state that Ward & Associates has nothing but admiration for risk-takers. As a guy who was a CPA in a Big 8(-6-4) public accounting firm and took the “Road less Traveled” to headhunting, I am one who says Go For It! when it comes to following your dreams. (Daughters are exclusions.)
But here’s the bad news.
Venturing off the obvious career path carries a risk. Your personal fulfillment may not come with a regular paycheck. You may not make it in your alternative career. You may not even like your alternative career. (Those rockers are CRAZY!)
Getting back on the straight, narrow path will require a healthy helping of humility eaten with a large side of harsh reality. Employers may raise their eyebrows at your “unique” resume. Your two years may have taught you a lot of life lessons, but your “growth” will have to be explained to a potential employer.
Here are a few tips from a fellow wanderer:
· Don’t beat yourself up over a “bad” career move. No one purposely goes in the wrong direction. Many employers will be willing to overlook an unconventional career move, particularly in the early years of your career. (You may run into a former rocker!)
· Do NOT leave a chronological gap on your resume in an attempt to hide a “break” in your career. The first thing to attract my notice in a resume is a mysterious gap.
· Be prepared to explain your career deviation to a potential employer. Why did you leave your original career? Why are you returning to your previous field?
· Describe your temporary detour in a positive light. What did you learn? What hardships did you encounter? How did the experience build you as an individual/ employee?
· If possible, utilize ALL your experience in your future endeavors. I was an accountant who belonged in sales. I used my background and my network to establish a recruitment practice that originally focused on finance positions.
· Anticipate a challenging job search. You will have to be more aggressive in your pursuit of a new job than someone who advanced in a straight line. Sending out a ream of resumes may not do it. Personal networking is crucial. Contact all your former colleagues about “getting back in.”
· Expect a pay cut. You may have to go back to Square 1 or Square 2. All things considered, it’s a small price to pay for having explored an alternate route.
· Consider NOT returning to your original career. If it made you unhappy then, it may make you unhappy now.
· Remember that there is no such thing as a perfect resume. All resumes are flawed. Yours will be no exception.
The best advice I can give is to develop a reasonable explanation for all your actions, utilize all of your contacts, speak positively about all your decisions, and MOVE FORWARD without apology or regrets.