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Interview Prep: crafting a compelling career change personal statement

April 30, 2023

Making a career change can be both exciting and challenging. Whether you're looking for a fresh start, pursuing your passion, or seeking new opportunities, the personal statement you present during an interview plays a crucial role in highlighting your motivations and qualifications for the new role. In this blog post, we will provide you with valuable tips and examples to help you ace the interview question,"Tell me about yourself," during a career change, and develop a career-change personal statement example.


Let’s begin with what an interviewer is looking for when you give a personal statement


An interviewer will typically ask a question like “tell me about yourself” at the beginning of an interview. Usually, candidates who have been working in their field a long time can answer this question with ease – for example, they got a software engineering internship in college, joined the company after graduation, and have been steadily receiving promotions in their career since.


But as a career switcher, your answer to this question won’t be as linear. You’ll need to come up with a framework on why you’re switching careers that the interviewer will find compelling and believable. If you don’t develop at least a few mental bullet points on a career-change personal statement example, you may find yourself grasping for ideas, or giving less than ideal answers, like “better pay and fewer hours.” Even if higher pay is a factor in your career change, it won’t be enough to sustain your interest in your new field over the long run, and your interviewer will need to know you have an interest in the work before making you any sort of offer.


It’s also wise to prepare for other variations of this question, like:


1.    "Walk me through your background."

2.    "Give me a brief overview of your professional experience."

3.    "Tell me your story."

4.    "Take me through your resume."

5.    “Tell me something that’s not on your resume.”

6.    "Describe your career trajectory."

7.    "Share a bit about yourself and your professional journey."

8.    "Explain how your background aligns with this position."

9.    "Help me understand your professional background and how you got here."


How to craft a career-change personal statement, with examples

Start with your current career and how you got started in that. Begin by introducing your current career and briefly discuss how you got involved in it. Highlight the skills and experiences you have gained so far, emphasizing any transferable skills that are relevant to the new role. This demonstrates your foundation and expertise in your current field.


Example:"Currently, I am working as a project manager in the IT industry. Over the past five years, I have successfully led multiple software development projects, honing my organizational and problem-solving skills.”


Next, explain how you became interested in your new career. Share the story of what sparked your interest in your new career path. This can include experiences, challenges, or encounters that inspired you to explore a different professional direction. Be genuine and show enthusiasm for the new field, highlighting any relevant skills or qualities you possess.


Example: "During my time as a project manager, I had the opportunity to collaborate closely with product design teams. I found myself drawn to their strategic thinking, creativity, and ability to understand and connect with audiences. Witnessing the impact of their work on our app, which helped keep our users interested and engaged, sparked a deep interest in pursuing a career in product design."


Discuss the steps you took to start your new career. Outline the proactive measures you have taken to transition into your desired field. This can include acquiring additional education, attending workshops or courses, gaining relevant certifications, or participating in volunteer work or side projects.Emphasize how these actions have equipped you with the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed in the new role.


Example: "To prepare for a career in software engineering, I enrolled in an engineering bootcamp and attended industry conferences to stay updated with the latest trends. I also took on freelance engineering projects to gain hands-on experience and build a solid portfolio. These experiences have provided me with a strong foundation in coding basics."


Explain why you're applying for the specific role. Lastly, tie your personal statement to the position you're interviewing for. Showcase your understanding of the role's requirements and how your background, skills, and newfound passion make you an ideal candidate. Connect the dots between your career change and the potential value you can bring to the organization.


Example: "I would be excited about the opportunity to join your team as a product manager. The role perfectly aligns with my passion for creating compelling user journeys and leveraging data to drive meaningful impact. With my engineering background and newfound expertise in product, I am confident that I can contribute to the team's success in delivering engaging product features that resonate with the target audience."


Tips on what not to do when making a career-change personal statement

Once you craft your career-change personal statement example, you likely won't make any of the below mistakes the job-seekers sometimes make when answering this question. But just in case, we recommend the following: 

Don't give an answer about wanting to change careers for money, or receiving more vacation, or another lifestyle factor. Look - aspiring to earn more money, or live a lifestyle that's more in line with your work-life balance, is great! But interviewers will want to hear that you're interested in their company or their role because of the work and because you're excited about it - not because of a personal factor.

Avoid making your answer overly personal. While it's important to show authenticity, refrain from sharing overly personal details or unrelated anecdotes. Keep the focus on your professional journey and how it aligns with the new career path.


Don't give too long or too short of an answer. Strike a balance between being concise and providing enough relevant information. Avoid rambling or giving an overly brief response that fails to convey your motivations and qualifications for the career change.


Don't feel awkward about wanting to switch careers - it's common! Remember that practice makes perfect and practicing this question with a friend or even alone will help you gain more confidence in your answer and avoid any long silences or awkward moments.


Career switchers – what’s been some of your best advice when giving career-change personal statement examples?

Want more interview prep? Check out our posts on: 

Interview prep for Founding Engineers

How to answer the interview question, what do you bring to the company

How to talk about your long-term career goals

For other interview tips, check out our other posts on interviewing on the blog.  

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