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  • Writer's pictureMatt Chung

How to switch career fields by Lu Zhang

Updated: Nov 6, 2023




I'm a programmer, and I want to become a quant.

I'm doing testing now, but I will only consider an SRE or BA/PM job next.

Quite a few candidates told me they are looking to leave their current company because they want to switch lanes. How many succeeded eventually? 10% is probably an over-optimistic estimation. How come he/ she can do it, while I can't? What did they do right so I can learn from them? If you have such questions, hope this article will help you. 

We can start by asking the following four questions:

  1. Why do I want to switch to this new area?

  2. Do I have a competitive advantage compared to the people already in this industry? Do I really like the job content?

  3. Who do I know that can help me get into this area?

  4. How do I bridge the gap, and prove my determination?

Do you have your answers ready? Let's go through them now!

1. Why do I want to switch to this new area?

If your answer is "everyone wants to do it", or "I suck at my current job", or "I'm tired of doing the same thing", I suggest that you think twice: what's good for another may not be suitable for you. Everyone wants to be an Olympic champion, but no one wants to train like one. If you can't do what you already know well, how can you expect to excel in another area?

There has to be a deeper reason or a better way to put it, a faith/ belief that is strong enough for you to make a move. It could be to make much more money so that you can support your family financially, to have a bigger impact on the business so you feel more fulfilled, or to do the things you love so you feel happier. It has to be a good, solid, and true reason that is strong enough to motivate you to DO something, rather than just think or talk about it. 

2. Do I have a competitive advantage compared to the people already in this industry? Do I really like the job content?

Now that you are sure to make the move, let's see how realistic it is. Do you have a competitive advantage so that it's rewarding and fulfilling to leave the current familiar industry and switch to a new area? Can you align your passion with your strength, so you can stand out among the others who are already in the industry? You might need to start from a much junior role, then are you willing to take a temporary pay cut? If all the answers are yes, you are serious and ready enough, let's make a plan!

3. Who do I know that can help me get into this area?

The first reaction might be to sign up for a course, obtain a certificate, or click on the apply button on Linkedin jobs. Unfortunately, when it comes to switching lanes, WHO you know is more important than WHAT you know. After all, hiring someone who is already doing this is much easier, for it saves so much effort in screening/ training. Then why would anyone take the risk, effort, and time to hire a newbie with 0 experience, unless they KNOW you? This someone, can be the manager/ colleague in a different team you worked with before, can be a friend who did a project with you in university or a headhunter who knows you well. You need someone who can VOUCH for you, and is willing to help you. Make the connection, tell them about your plan, and ask for guidance & help. If your company encourages internal mobility, jump on it! That's much easier than applying for a new role in a new company where NO ONE knows how good you are.

4. How do I bridge the gap, and prove my determination?

Now it's really time to learn! A personal project, a course/master's degree, or a recognized certification will not only sharpen your skills but also show your determination to make a change. Don't forget to ask for advice from a headhunter or your friends already working in this area, so you can prepare for the interviews much better!

Looking for a job? Want to know more about the market? Contact me at lu.zhang@pinpointasia.com now!

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