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by Kari Molvar, Forbes.com
Switching jobs is tricky at any time--but it's especially tough in a strained economy. With the unemployment rate hovering at around 9.7%, the competition to find any job is challenging, let alone a job in a new field.
For many people, starting fresh in a new career wasn't a voluntary decision. Those working in hard-hit sectors like finance, manufacturing, retail, and publishing have been forced out of positions that may never return. Leaner companies have figured out that they can operate with less headcount, making hiring less likely than ever. Forced-out employees may have to find not only a new job but also a new career.
More Job Seekers Are Moving to New Fields
Recent research indicates job transference is a developing workplace trend. A new survey from CareerBuilder.com found that just over half of laid-off workers landed new jobs in fields different from where they were previously employed--that's up from 38% in 2009. But just because switching is more common, it doesn't make it any easier. In fact, middle managers or those who have reached a high level in the corporate world might find it particularly difficult to leap to a new lily pad.
"Traditionally, there are fewer managers and executive positions the higher up you look in any given company," explains Dionna Keels, a senior corporate recruiter based in Atlanta. Even if you're OK with taking a step back in title and responsibilities, don't expect prospective bosses to feel the same way.
Being over-qualified can work against you, too. "The thinking is that you'll leave as soon as the economy gets better, so there's little incentive to hire that candidate," explains Keels. "Employers want people who show long-term growth potential, not someone who might feel restless and unfulfilled after a few months."
So what can you do to market yourself successfully across job fields?
It's Survival of the Fittest
You'll need to start by thinking aggressively. "It's a buyer's market for employers," says Melanie Holmes, vice president of work solutions for Manpower. Keels agrees, offering a case in point. "I posted a job on a Friday afternoon and by Monday morning I had 500 applicants," she says. "That's about four times what it would have been in years past. Employers know they can be picky since they have so many candidates to choose from."
In the end, it really comes down to a survival of the fittest, which means you'll need to be primed to conquer the job market. Click here to see our eight crucial tips on how to land the interview--and hopefully the job.