I Was a Teacher, Now I Want to Work on Construction Sites. Help!

Your resume says one thing, but you want to do something else. How do you convince a prospective employer to take a chance on you?

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Dear TIME Moneyland,

I had always wanted to be a teacher, but after I got my undergrad degree, I began thinking I wanted to be a project or construction manager instead. I got a job in Little Rock working for an economic development agency, but was mostly just pushing papers, so I started looking again. Unfortunately, it was like crabs-in-a-bucket syndrome — everybody was fighting over the same few jobs. So I left Little Rock, came to Houston, and I started teaching to supplement my income. But it just wasn’t for me. I’ve volunteered with some small construction companies in my area, but can’t seem to get my foot in the door. Once people see education on my resume, they say, “Well, why don’t you want to teach?” One guy said, “We just can’t hire a teacher on the construction site.” I’ve registered for some construction management classes, and plan to take a project management certification test in November. What other steps would you recommend to a person in my position looking to start over?

Looking for Second Career
Dear Looking,

Since the economic downturn, transitioning from one career to another has almost become the norm. It can be tough convincing employers that you’ve got what it takes to start down a new career path. So first, make sure you’re highlighting and emphasizing everything in your past that could be relevant for a project management job. Meredith Haberfeld, career coach and co-founder of the Institute for Coaching, even proposes something outside the box: “You can consider getting a little radical and calling what you did in the classroom ‘project management,’” she says. “Then go on to tell the story of how you managed your students. Don’t lie, but have what jumps off your resume be the most resonant features.” Narrow your personal pitch down to one or two sentences that explain what you’re looking to do and why you’re perfect for the job you’re applying for. And consider one of the most tried and true methods for getting your foot in the door: the informational interview. “Not only will it refine your decision-making, but the added benefit is that the individuals you reach out to will become a critical part of your network.” And building that network is key to starting a new career. While it may seem daunting, don’t get discouraged. “Every person’s experience can be re-packaged to meet the demands of a new industry,” Haberfeld says.

Dear TIME Moneyland,

I’ve only worked at non-profit organizations, but I’ve jumped around from job to job a lot, all for different reasons: once because the pay (hourly, not salary) was too low; once because the organization (a youth crime prevention network that I loved) was eliminated when the sponsoring political figure wasn’t reelected; once because I had nothing in common with my coworkers; and most recently because the job itself is not what I want to do or a career path I wish to pursue. Every job has been a year or less, and employers don’t know how to look at that. They always ask, “Are you going to stay here?” How can I answer that question? It’d be nice to establish a career somewhere, and I eventually want to work my way up to be an executive director of a non-profit. But I’m certainly not getting any closer hopping from job to job.

Jumping Between Jobs

(MORE: I Hate My Job and I Don’t Know What to Do About It)

Dear Jumping,

Moving from job to job can definitely raise flags for employers, but if you eventually want to work your way up the non-profit ladder and get a job you truly enjoy, here are a few ways to get around that. “When you interview, don’t belabor the fact that you’ve had many jobs,” says Nina Godiwalla, author of Suits: A Woman on Wall Street and CEO of Mindworks, which provides stress management to professional organizations. “Switch the interviewer’s focus to how passionate you are about their organization. Nonprofits want to hear that you believe in their cause.” Considering you loved your earlier youth crime prevention job, try to think back on that experience and figure out what exactly you loved about that position, Godiwalla says. That can help you understand what you truly want to do in the non-profit world. Plus, if you haven’t looked into the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, it can provide you with a list of chapters in your area that may help you find others who can help. Just remember, you can’t become an executive director without staying at one job for a while. So make your next move to an organization you believe in and try to stick with it.

Need a job? Hate your job? Basically, do you need career advice? E-mail us at moneyland@timeinc.com and we’ll put your issues in front of experts.