About a week ago, I asked readers to fire some questions our way.

The one I’m going to tackle today is a pretty common one that we get.

One of your fellow subscribers, Kevin, asked this in an email recently:

I’m lacking experience in the computer language(s) that I really want to program in, but have 17 years experience working for a major software company using an “older” legacy software language, because that was how they originally wrote the software that I worked with. I’m trying to keep up to date with the newer software languages by taking internet-based training. Is it likely I can jump into another position/company that would allow me to work in the newer language(s) without taking pay cuts? Is it possible to actually ask for more pay (salary) to work in the position that I don’t have prior experience in? (due to the legacy language I worked with)”

In short, how do I get a job in a role in which I have no experience?

When we talk about career pivots, this becomes a common theme…and one we’re pretty well versed in.

(we’ve tackled this topic before here, here, and here)

In order to make this leap, you need to do one or more of the following things:

  1. Get the experience (a serious no brainer here): While this is something Kevin is working on, it also inserts him immediately into the “commodity game.” He’s trading on a hard skill and one, when we get down to it, that doesn’t hold up when exposure and amount of time using this hard skill becomes the default measuring stick.
  2. Bring something even MORE valuable to the table: This requires going beyond the job description and truly understanding the pain your future boss is rubbing up against every day. How is the wrong person (or no person) in this role impacting his/her daily workflow, morale on the team, potential for a raise/bonus and overall job security? What else do you bring to the table that is MORE critical than a hard skill which you can easily learn.
  3. 3rd party validation: The AMA (American Marketing Association) cites that recommendations by friends and family influence our buying decisions 80% of the time. When it comes to employment, pre-existing relationships are the catalyst for 54% of hires. Bottom line, if you’re going to ask a future boss to flex on his/her wish list of criteria, the recommendation that “you’re the one” from a trusted relationship goes a long way to moving the odds in your favor.

The real key here is moving from commodity to unique solution (and, ultimately, trusted advisor). This will also position you for a vastly different type of conversation than the typical interview where you’re defending every career choice you’ve ever made.

More importantly, it positions you to be able to negotiate for more compensation.

And THAT’S one of the real fears we have when it comes to making career pivots.

So, what do you think? Are you being held back from making a change because you’re not positioning your career narrative or leveraging your relationships to the best of your abilities?