Switching career paths

LinkedIn launched a new career advice feature about a month ago. It prompted me to join recently and I figured why not. I’ve given a lot of advice in person, so let’s add another avenue.

I just received my first request from someone who’s just starting out in technology as a data analyst. She wanted some feedback on her profile and how to go about applying for a job. I’ve been meaning to write about both for awhile, so here ya are. Below is the message I sent her.


Happy to offer some advice. I’ll couch all of it with the caveat that this is my take. I’ve hired a lot of folks, but I’m not the oracle on what every hiring manager or recruiter is looking for. I’ve also never hired a data analyst.

First, some feedback on your LinkedIn profile – it’s good in that you’ve got a solid, professional avatar (you’d be amazed at the number of folks who don’t) and the skills listed in your description are great. Can you talk about any one of them for a few minutes? Imagine you’re in an interview and someone says “I saw you’ve used Tablaeu. Can you tell me about the dashboards you’ve built and the challenges you faced while doing that?” Is that gonna throw you? If it does, nix it from that list. Good interviewers are going to try to validate some of what you’ve included on LinkedIn and your resume to make sure you really know what you say you do.

I recommend adding some narrative text to your description describing what you’ve done and what you want to do. It’s a great chance to create a narrative to tie all of the various jobs together. Do you have a clear (or even fuzzy) line on how you went from teaching to Amnesty International to your current position as a data analyst? The description is a chance to share that. The hardest part about changing industries is connecting the dots to why your previous experience is relevant to the experience you have right now.

About applying and such. It’s really hard to apply to a new job in a new area without being there. So much of finding jobs is about being able to make connections with folks in the industry you’re in and build those relationships. Can you spend a week in either location? If so, look for meet ups or other networking events in the industry(ies) you’re looking to go to work in and try to plan a trip around that. If there are a few places you’d like to work at, don’t be shy about messaging folks at that company and asking if they’d be willing to grab coffee and talk about what they are looking for. Don’t message everyone at the company. Find someone managing teams you’re looking at or recruiters. They’re going to have the best insight in to exactly what they watch for when reviewing an application.

When it comes time to actually apply keep a few things in mind. Done is better than perfect. Writing the perfect cover letter or resume isn’t going to happen, so put something together, have a friend (even better if that friend is a writer / editor) do a quick review edit, then submit it. When I’m reviewing job applications I can tell immediately when someone is sending out a generic cover letter / resume for every open job and I ignore those. I generally only have one or two positions open so I want someone in that role who wants to be there and is willing to put in a little effort.

All that said, knowing someone in the company is even better. Recruiters get so many bogus applications that it’s hard to stand out. The warm introduction to recruiting turns the application process into filling out paperwork so they can track you through your interview process. LinkedIn can be a great resource for discovering loose connections to the place you want to apply.

Hope this is helpful! Good luck and happy holidays!!