Why a 'career changer' could be your next great hire
It can be tempting to have a rigid checklist for the experiences and skills you want candidates to have, but SEEK research has shown there are enormous benefits if employers are willing to think outside the box and consider hiring candidates who are changing careers.

The importance of candidates with passion

Passion is an undeniable motivator for people who are looking for a new job. A recent SEEK study found that for people wanting to make a career change, just under a third wanted to do so because they aspired to do something more fulfilling or to pursue their passion.

A study in The Journal for Organizational Behaviour proposed that depending on the employee, passion for work could generate powerful effects. So what might the benefits be for employers who take on passionate career changers?

The SEEK social experiment

In order to explore the benefits (and challenges) of hiring candidates from diverse backgrounds, SEEK conducted a social experiment, which saw candidates who were looking to change careers placed with employers who matched their interest and passion.

Lisa Martin is a HR Manager at Tract, a planning and design practice comprising town planners, landscape architects and urban designers. Tract hosted Ned, a pharmacy assistant who had a desire to try his hand at town planning. “We organised a program where Ned met a number of town planners so he could get a sense of what it’s like to work in this area,” Martin says. “Ned also went out on site with our town planners. They asked Ned for his input and how he might approach certain issues. At the end of the day they had a discussion about his thoughts and impressions.”

For Martin, the mix of having employees formally trained in planning and design and those who are passionate but may not yet have qualifications, is a great one. “We have lots of people at Tract who have had career changes,” she says. “We are happy to take on people with little experience especially if they are studying, but it does depend on their expectations around what level they would be coming in at.”

Considerations when employing career changers

When employers are looking to hire career changers a frank conversation about the candidate’s expectations around the level of responsibility and remuneration is crucial. “The nature of our work and regulations means that candidates without experience do have to come in at entry level,” says Martin.

Having an open mind regarding the transferability of skills candidates may have is valuable for employers. For example, a lawyer wanting to change career into marketing may draw on their skills of persuasion and their ability to ask thought-provoking questions, or an electrician could make a valuable contribution to an engineering team with their planning ability and attention to detail.

The value career changers can bring

Overall, Martin says, the SEEK experiment confirmed the notion that candidates from different careers and experiences can bring real worth to a workplace. “I think it’s great when people come from various backgrounds because they tend to approach things differently,” she says. “They don’t necessarily need to be someone who has worked in that profession to be of value.”

Martin points to another Tract employee who used to be an opera singer. “She came to us with a few years’ experience, but as someone who has changed careers later in life she brings maturity,” says Martin. “Her previous experience as an opera singer means she has the ability to talk confidently in front of others. It’s great because she made a conscious decision to pursue this work and make a career change.”