4 Tips to Help You Transition Professionally While Still Employed

With so many studies on low employee engagement, it is easy to assume workers are switching jobs now more than ever. While there are no concrete statistics highlighting how many Americans change careers at any given time (the Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that career professionals, sociologists, and economists cannot agree on what defines a “career change”), news articles, pop culture, and other research implies people are switching professions at a substantial rate.

Most conversations about job switching involve millennials. According to Gallup's How Millennials Want to Work and Live report, 60 percent of this demographic is open to new job opportunities, and 21 percent admitted to changing jobs between 2015 and 2016. That said, there is evidence this trend exists among older workers as well. According to findings from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, which canvassed nearly 10,000 men and women in 1979 and again in 2012–13, younger baby boomers—those born between 1957 and 1964—held an average of 11.7 jobs between the ages of 18 and 50. When broken down into smaller age groups, the boomers held an average of fewer jobs as they grew older, but they still continued to switch roles:

The survey counted jobs spanning multiple age ranges once for each group, so the overall average is less than the sum of all the categories.

What does this data imply? In short, if you are a working adult and feel the desire for a new career, you are not alone. So, if you are serious about making the transition, the following 4 tips can help you in your job search:

1. Return to school

If you find yourself underqualified for a new career, obtaining an advanced degree might be a suitable first choice of action. This is especially true if you want an executive edge to help you progress from a managerial role to an executive level. The advanced business concepts you should have when joining the C-suite may not be available to you without additional study.

As a working professional, it can be difficult to make time for school while you are still employed. Thankfully, the Washington State University Carson College of Business provides a fully online Executive Master of Business Administration program that can suit your educational needs while you work. Our program is completely web-based, so you can complete your degree from any location: your home, office, or local cafe. Furthermore, our 100 percent online program provides you the flexibility to study when it is most convenient for you. You can earn your degree quickly as well—our Executive MBA program can be completed in as few as 18 months.


Female executive filling out tax forms while sitting at her desk. ; Shutterstock ID 180623501; team: Pearson

The Carson College allows you to study for an EMBA while still working full time.

2. Build your network

While you are in school and as you continue to work, focus on building a network of professionals. Such a network can serve as a huge benefit when looking to transition, as having someone else vouch for your skills and knowledge can help make your case as a potential candidate. According to a survey created with the help of LinkedIn, as many as 85 percent of job-seekers find their new careers through networking.

If you enroll in The Carson College's EMBA program, you will have these important networking opportunities, including our annual three-day leadership conference. This exclusive event is open only to Carson College EMBA students, alumni, faculty, and guest speakers. During the conference, you will also have the opportunity to learn from accomplished business experts, thereby expanding your list of professional contacts.

3. Establish or audit your online presence

Once you have the knowledge for your new career of choice, take some time to review your social media with your potential future employers in mind. Audit your public LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, updating information, removing inflammatory posts, and switching to private settings as necessary.

According to an annual CareerBuilder study that surveyed over 2,300 human resource professionals and hiring managers, 70 percent of employers use social media to screen applicants. The survey revealed other important insights, most notably:

• 54 percent of respondents decided against hiring a candidate because of that person's online profile at least once.
• 57 percent of respondents said they were less likely to interview a candidate if they could not find that person online.

Create a LinkedIn profile to increase your chances of getting an interview.

4. Optimize your resume

When tailoring your resume and cover letters for each job you apply for, be sure to optimize these documents to make them favorable to applicant tracking systems. ATS are computer programs that human resources departments use to filter applications automatically, selecting resumes that meet certain criteria and discarding those that do not. While it is almost impossible to know what these criteria are if you work outside the company, you can follow best practices to optimize your resume and cover letter, possibly increasing your chances of being selected for an interview.

This step might seem extraneous, but the number of companies using ATS software warrants such precaution. According to an analysis from the job search company LinkUp, an estimated 90 percent of large corporations use these types of programs. If you suspect a potential employer receives a high volume of applications, use these simple optimization steps provided by LinkedIn:

• If you fill out an application online, answer all questions, even if some aren't marked as mandatory. Some companies set their ATS to discard applications with blank fields.
• When attaching files, format the documents in a way the program can scan easily. Do not use images, tables, text boxes, special characters, or underlined text.
• Title attached documents in a straightforward manner. A filename such as YourFirstName_YourLastName_resume.doc should suffice.
• Be sure to use the same words found in the job listing when applicable. Many ATS are programmed to look for specific keywords.

Preparing for an Executive MBA with Washington State University’s Carson College of Business

The final three aforementioned tips can help you make a lateral career move, but the first tip can prove to be a huge asset when you seek an executive role. Many businesses want high-level employees with advanced degrees, and you may find it beneficial to tailor your educational experience toward the C-suite. Enrolling in The Carson College's online EMBA program can be the first step toward a fulfilling new position within the business of your choice.

Recommended Readings:
3 things to do when you've reached a plateau in your career
6 tips to update your networking skills for the modern corporate environment