An early challenge job changers face is determining who they are professionally.
If you've been in the workforce 5 years or more, you've had LOTS of areas where you could demonstrate expertise. Depending on your career, this could be even less than 5 years.
Maybe you're an expert at Post merger integration, Turnarounds, FAS 133, Ruby programming, Project Management for windows infrastructure, Human Resource wellness programs, Selling technology services or Managing design teams using modern CAD programs to build hospitals.
Notice that these are very specific subject matter expertises. In today's job market, the more specifically you can define your expertise, the better you'll sell yourself.
Why? You are defining yourself as an expert to solve very specific problems. It's what employers want to see, and what candidates seldom do. Remember, today's hiring manager hires employees like consultants - to solve specific problems with specific subject matter expertise.
So, you've decided "I want to be a Subject Matter Expert today"! Now what? What do you choose to specialize in?
I put my clients through a simple exercise to help decide what subject matter expertise to choose. In practice, I'll have them choose as many as three.
I have clients prepare a 3 column chart (MS EXCEL or your favorite spreadsheet works great for this). The left column lists "My Skills", the center column "Market Demands", and the right column lists "Experiences Desired".
* Under "My Skills", list your top 10 specific skills that make you unique. Avoid broad descriptions like Leadership
* Under "Market Demands", list the top 10 skills you see demanded in the market for jobs you've been applying to (or viewing)
* Under "Experiences Desired", list the top 10 experiences you want in your new job. Again, be specific.
Once you've made your lists, compare them. There should be an intersection of skills & experiences that exist in all three columns. After all, shouldn't your next career move involve something you're good at, something in demand, and something you want to do?
If you don't have skills and desired experiences that intersect, you may want to broaden your skills or demands list. Alternatively, consider if it's realistic to expect your desired experiences can be accomplished at the start of your next job. Perhaps this is a signal that your next job could be more of a lateral move that might LEAD to the experiences you desire - a stepping stone, perhaps within the same new employer.
What's the value in going through this exercise? It forces you to brainstorm, and writing this information down brings insights. In addition, it gives you more information to share with Recruiters, mentors, friends, or Career Coaches. Have fun determining your subject matter expertise!