The days of having a single career path until retirement are long gone–and that’s a good thing. Research from Deloitte shows that 43% of millennials plan to leave their current jobs within two years. The reality is, we evolve and so do our interests, along with our ability to take on new challenges. This doesn’t mean that changing careers isn’t scary. It can require going back to school, taking on student loan debt, or sacrificing a comfortable high-paying position for an entry-level one.
The good news is, that while it may feel daunting, chances are you already have easily transferrable skills and expertise for where you want to go. And you may not have to leave your current employer to do it.
I started my career at IAC as one big happy accident. After graduating college, I found myself struggling to find a job that truly inspired me. I took on an administrative role at media and technology company IAC (home to brands like Match.com, Tinder, Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor, and Vimeo) for chairman Barry Diller to learn more about the fascinating (and at the time nascent) world of the internet. Flash-forward 20 years: I now oversee all executive recruitment, talent management, and internal growth and mobility for the company as IAC’s head of talent.
I successfully made the career transition without leaving the IAC umbrella, and along the way, I picked up some best practices that–in combination with grit and perseverance–can help make your leap into the unknown less scary.
Know your skillset
Before you can convince others of your ability to transfer jobs, you need to start with an honest assessment of what you do well. What are you genuinely good at and what do you enjoy doing on a daily basis?
During my time as an executive assistant, I often found colleagues would turn to me to settle disputes or provide feedback on resumes and job candidates. Mediation, interviewing, and hiring are essential skills for HR professionals and I was already practicing them in an unofficial capacity. If you’re thinking about what a different future career might look like, consider where you already excel and how those strengths would manifest in your new field of choice. Time management, organization, creative thinking, collaboration, and leadership all stood out to me as areas where I not only had expertise, but were critical to the HR function.
Go directly to the experts
Once you know where you want to go, find the experts and the allies who can help you get there. Chances are, you have colleagues who either already do this work or have previous applicable experience.
When I wanted to make the switch into HR, I went directly to the source at IAC. I set up coffee meetings with my HR leadership team, I asked questions, and I found a way to be a fly on the wall during team meetings to soak up everything I could. When I noticed the team needed help, I offered to contribute my time. This not only helped the department, but allowed me to gain firsthand experience.
I also turned to my internal network for anyone who had a background in recruiting and asked them for a meeting to pepper them with questions. While it may seem scary or awkward to do this, keep in mind that the worst someone can say is “no.” And if they do, ask them if there is someone else they recommend you connect with. Throughout this process, I not only gained vital insight into a new field, but I also reconnected with influencers and leaders who have proven to be helpful throughout my career. As a result, people began to take an interest in my success.
Over the years, I have raised my hand frequently for opportunities outside of my immediate role. Never feel like a task given to you during this transition process is too small. Even if nothing tangible comes immediately following a project’s completion, the hunger you show will be noticed. When an HR position became available at IAC, the team remembered my contributions and gave me the opportunity to interview for the role even though I did not have a specific previous HR position listed on my resume.
Think like an entrepreneur
Within any business, it’s healthy to question the status quo. This is very much ingrained in the culture at IAC. Anjali Sud, the CEO of IAC’s Vimeo, started out running marketing, then quickly ascended to the GM of Vimeo’s creator platform business. The company was focused on original content at the time, but Anjali saw a massive untapped opportunity in Vimeo’s core software business, which was growing quietly–but rapidly–under her leadership.
Now CEO, Anjali and the Vimeo team are 100% focused on the winning strategy she helped champion. Regardless of the role you’re going for, always look for those hidden growth opportunities and be vocal about going after them–even if it’s as simple as calling out a legacy process and offering a solution. Thinking and behaving like an innovator will help you move that much faster toward your goal.
Quite literally, I stumbled into Barry Diller’s office. I was asked to help for one day while an assistant was on vacation, and upon walking in, I tripped and barely made it to the chair. It may have been a pretty clumsy first impression, but it thankfully it was not a lasting one.
Later that day, as I was trying to keep my head above water, someone passed by and asked if I was okay. Without thinking, I shouted back, “Yes, I got this!” It turns out, that someone was Barry Diller and years later, I found out he was impressed by my confidence. That single day of work turned into a meaningful, multi-decade career in a field I had no idea I wanted to pursue.
No matter where or how you start your career, make it known that you are ready to take on anything. A positive attitude and the ability to say “yes” with confidence goes a long way in not only proving to others–but also yourself–that you are up for whatever challenges come your way.
Laura Sapp is head of talent at IAC.