When this question comes up, the person asking it is really after one simple piece of information. They want to know if their current experience is related enough to your career field that they can make the jump without any retraining. A lot of the time, this works out. Often, there are some small steps to take to retrain and redirect skills, but they can usually be done in preparation for the job market. If that’s not the case, though, the best solution is to be honest so that they know what to expect.
Points to Emphasize
Building your answer around these points will help ensure you cover everything.
- Discuss specifics that are in their favor by mapping relevant tasks or skills to prospective positions in the new field.
- Be honest about any necessary retraining or credentials that might improve a candidate’s chances.
- Use their current experience and career progress to realistically assess the likelihood of a lateral transfer, as well as other possibilities.
- Be honest about the answer to the follow-up question, but explain your reasons.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
Be careful about these missteps, because they could confuse or offend the person asking the questions.
- Never take a negative tone, even if you have to give an answer that the listener won’t like.
- Don’t equivocate, either. Lay out the information as neutrally and directly as possible.
- Remember, the goal is to give them an overview, but you can’t make any direct promises. Talk in terms of probabilities instead.
- You also want to avoid over-generalizing, because it can make your answer unclear or unhelpful. A couple of specific evaluations will work best.
Here is one example of a complete, concise answer to the question.
Your field is related, and someone hiring in my field would consider a candidate from your background, but you need to be licensed and fully insured independently before they would interview you. A lot of realtors started in construction, but agencies don’t want to foot the bill for your career jump. As far as I’m concerned, if you had your license and you had this resume, you’d be the kind of candidate we’re looking for.
The key here is to draw a clear line between where the listener is currently at and where they need to be before they are ready to transition career fields. If you keep that in mind, it can guide the rest of your points.