How to Navigate a Path Into a New Field [EdSurge Tips]

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How to Navigate a Path Into a New Field [EdSurge Tips]

By EdSurge Jobs     Feb 12, 2019

How to Navigate a Path Into a New Field [EdSurge Tips]

Oh, the inscrutable logic of the job market! So many job postings declare that candidates need relevant experience. Exactly how is a job candidate—particularly one breaking into a new field—supposed to get that experience?

Take heart: You can navigate a path into a new field, particularly in the world of education technology. Just as many schools are emphasizing the value of “competency-based learning,” some of the most interesting employers are more excited about what you can do than where you have worked. Even better: Smart companies in education will value your experience as an educator.

There is a challenge, of course. You need to show potential employers how you can wield your skills in a new context. Here are the first steps:

  • Homework, homework, homework! If you’re a teacher, you know the power of doing the work. Time for you to bone up on the new area you want to pursue. For instance, if you want to be in product management, dive deeply into the latest trends. Become fluent in the lingo and approaches. Find the smartest blogs. Who are the thought leaders in this sector? Don’t just follow them—tweet back!
  • Distill the skills. Learn what goes into doing the job. An online course might help. Or find meetups, Twitter feeds or professional associations where people who already do this job congregate. (Knowing more about the daily ins and outs of a job will also either convince you this path is right for you—or send you in a new direction!)
  • Meet, greet—and grill. You know those thought leaders you’re following? As you become more fluent in the field, consider reaching out to them, either online or at a meetup or event. Have smart questions ready: “What books do you recommend I read? What organizations should I should know inside and out?” Asking people to share their insights first is a great way to get to know the field and build up your contacts.

All potential employers need you to answer one very critical question: Do you have the capability to do the job that they are trying to fill?

Once you’ve acquired the necessary skills, how do you let employers know that you have what it takes? Let’s discuss.

  • Show me! How can you demonstrate that you’re building these skills—even at a small scale? Can you find opportunities, either in your current job or even in a volunteer opportunity, to flex those muscles? How about starting a blog, a social media feed or some other way of exhibiting what you’re learning? Say you’re an educator who wants to be in marketing: How about building a marketing campaign around some of the TeachersPayTeachers materials that your colleagues are creating? Or running a fundraising campaign for your school using DonorsChoose?
  • Own your story. Once you have begun to broaden your expertise in a particular field, try “telling your story” in a way that shows you’ve been using these skills—just in a different field. Restack your resume to emphasize the skills you have, not just the places you’ve worked. Go beyond listing job titles. Share what you have actually accomplished.
  • Tackle the take-home. A growing number of job interviews may offer you a chance to show what you know by doing a “take-home” exercise. Be cautious if the work seems like a freelance assignment without pay. (And yes, you can decline.) But assignments like these can be a way for you to both showcase your knowledge and get a sense of the organization at the same time. Just remember to give the assignment the kind of loving attention you would lavish on the work if you were a paid employee...and always use that spell checker.

Time to go get that dream job!

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