Working outside the field: what makes career changers so valuable

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Companies often spend a long time looking for a new employee for a job. They are increasingly finding what they are looking for with people who have not learned the profession they are aiming for. As early as 2019, a good third of 400 HR managers questioned said in a survey by the online career portal Monster that they had already looked specifically for lateral entrants – who are still the exception in Germany.

Tina Stehle, biologist, wanted to work in the field of ecology after completing her Master of Science in 2013. She applied unsuccessfully: “In Germany there are around 160 applicants for one position in nature conservation.” Because she needed money, she thought about it. She started out as a saleswoman in the clothing industry. After three years she was the deputy branch manager of a fashion store – and left. “13 or 14 hours of work per day were no longer acceptable.”

One third of the companies are currently hiring more career changers from other industries

Then Stehle worked in the accounting office of a waste management company in Baden-Württemberg. “There I ran into reservations at first,” she says. “’You have studied? It would be easier here with training, ‘they said. I got the job – with lower pay. ”Because she had the right skills and software knowledge and quickly found her way around everything, the area of ​​responsibility grew. “After half a year I got a higher salary.”

Career changers are on the rise. They are academics who switch to a profession below their qualification and then often move up differently, but also specialists with or without training who progress through experience, switch to another profession or study. In the pandemic, companies and job seekers are much more flexible: Almost a third of German companies (31 percent) are hiring more lateral entrants from other industries or occupational fields.

Lateral entrants are particularly sought after in the areas of personnel, logistics and customer service

A good two thirds of German specialists and executives have already changed their work area. This was the result of a survey by the Stepstone job exchange in autumn 2020. Like, it belongs to Axel Springer Verlag.

“Job seekers themselves think outside the box and also look specifically for new job profiles or industries that might be of interest to them,” says Inga Rottländer, career expert at Stepstone. 80 percent of them searched more broadly than before the corona pandemic. “Lateral entrants are often particularly in demand in professions in which a person’s personality and motivation are more decisive for success than a certain qualification, for example in customer service or personnel.” But also in areas and regions in which the demand for personnel is far higher than the supply of appropriately trained people Experts. “People without prior knowledge have a good chance here.” This also includes the logistics industry.

Survey: Skills and competencies are more important than job titles, but the pay for career changers is often worse

In IT and technology, according to the Stepstone experts, skills and competencies are more in the foreground than rigid job titles. “Digitization has created numerous new job profiles, for which there was no formal training for a long time or some of them still do not exist,” says Inga Rottländer. The term “career changer” was only among the top 20 search terms in 2020 for the first time.

Getting in from the wrong side obviously goes hand in hand with lower pay. In 2019, an online survey conducted by the online career portal Monster among a good 400 HR managers revealed a loss of salary due to lateral entry: In 24 percent of those surveyed, lateral entrants earned less than “conventional” colleagues in the same position.

“We should produce career changers – they have personality”

If you really want to change, you accept the loss of wages. Because not everyone who works outside the field does so out of an emergency. The Bayerischer Rundfunk reported on a professional musician, 31 years old, who only played music in front of old people – and who now cares for them. She gave up her job to train as a nurse. Many teachers at schools who are career changers also do it out of conviction – even if they often have to fight for their good reputation from the start.

Alexander Zeitelhack, lecturer at the Technical University of Nuremberg, sees breaks in the curriculum vitae as an opportunity. “We live in a world that is changing at such a rapid rate that we should start producing newcomers,” he says. The consultant and coach works in the private sector and teaches future and trend research at the Technical University of Nuremberg. One of his fields is the working world of the future. “Lateral entrants have personality, and unfortunately no university still teaches that. HR managers in companies must first gain an eye for this. “

Tina Stehle works where she did her master’s degree today: at the University of Konstanz. When the law department was looking for a secretary, she applied. With success. “Studying biology teaches you not to give in to problems when you face problems, but rather to think about how to solve them,” she says. “I can teach myself things and acquire them. What I have learned helps me to find my way in other professions. My advice to career changers: If you start elsewhere, be flexible. ”


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