You love being a Virtual Assistant, but the advantages of a full time salary are mighty tempting. Here’s a way you can potentially have both.
Employers don’t need much encouragement to adopt a “try-before-you-buy” recruitment strategy; daily exposure to a candidate’s work and ability to fit into company culture before making a full time commitment to full time employment is an obvious advantage for a hiring manager. But what about job candidates – in particular, what if you want to change your career path? Does “try-before-you-buy” offer a particular advantage for someone embarking on a career pivot?
The answer is a resounding, “yes.”
This will take some time, energy and research, but it’s an excellent adjunct to your freelancing efforts.
Begin with your target companies before they even post an opening. Identify – through online research and/or networking with contacts who work at these companies (and if you haven’t already made connections at your target companies, for goodness sake, get on LinkedIn, and get moving!!!) some projects or initiatives that the company is working on. Figure out how whatever you want your next career to be fits into the company’s plan.
Change your career path by negotiating a "try before buy" strategy
Too vague? Okay; here’s an example. Let’s say that you’ve been an administrative assistant for a marketing exec, and you want to break into marketing yourself. You’ve picked up a lot while working for Ms. Marketer, but if you apply for positions that require marketing experience, you don’t actually have any, so its likely that you won't get very far.
You know you can do it. But it’s a rare employer who will give you the opportunity. After all, when they post an opening in their marketing team, they usually want at least some experience.
So you do one or both of two things: check job boards and recruiters to see if they’re looking for temporary or contract employees to handle this one project. OR – and I like this move even better – network your way to a hiring manager. Make this person an offer; you will work on a specific project or take care of a specific pain point of hers on a contract basis. If it goes well, you have the best opportunity of anyone to turn this gig into a full time job.
The take-away here is that if you don't see any opportunities posted for you to get hired on a try-before-you-buy basis, create some. The key is getting yourself in front of the right person (people), in order to make your case, and the key to finding the right person is to network.
I know what you’re thinking. How can I give up my current job for a short-term gig that may or may not become permanent?
Here’s my take on it: no job is permanent, really. Most states in the U.S. are “at-will” with regard to employment, and many job offers include a 90-day probationary period. The point is, most employers can let you go for no reason or without explanation at any time, but especially in the first few months. So get it out of your head that you want to hold out for a permanent position.
And if you are serious about changing your career path, then you need to plan ahead financially, providing yourself at minimum a 6-month cushion of savings to tide you over in between periods of unemployment.
One of my clients – Molly - spent about 6 months trying to switch from retail into event planning while staying at her retail job. She did a brilliantly networking, following my suggestions with real enthusiasm, and scored several informational interviews. Things clicked at one of those interviews, but the hiring manager’s manager was reluctant to give the ok to Molly because while she showed great promise, she lacked prior experience. Molly took a deep breath and offered to quit her job in order to work for this event planning company on a specific event.
It’s too soon to know if this will turn into full time employment, but even if it doesn’t, Molly has something she didn’t have before: actual experience in the career she wants to pivot into.
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