Nov 7 2017 How to look for jobs outside the box and progress in your career

We give you a four-step strategy to identify unlikely jobs that develop transferable skills and foster professional growth.

  • Individual self-analysis as a necessary departing point for job hunting
  • A better understanding of in-demand skills across industries


It is not uncommon, even in one’s own country, to end up looking for jobs (and eventually getting hired for those) that do not a necessarily have any relevance to our academic or professional backgrounds. The situation can be more complicated when residing overseas. Adding to the language barrier, professions that required specific licensing (accountants, lawyers, medical doctors) tend to be the most difficult to continue when living outside of the country in which they were issued. In such situations, how can you strategically advance your career? While there is no silver-bullet there are ways to grow professionally in jobs that may not be a ‘perfect’ match to one’s existing skills.

Step 1: Evaluate yourself

Understanding your own interests and what motivates you is essential. Don’t worry if you find yourself not being able to decide on a definitive interest – in fact, when exploring opportunities, having a wide area of interests can open more doors than close in the early stages.

You might ask: Why do I need to do a self-analysis when I have an established career or expertise? Understanding how to apply one’s skill sets beyond your existing profession or field is critical to building a career that will thrive in today’s job market. With disruptions across economies from emerging technologies, the incidence of financial crises, and growing global mobility, understanding what motivates us as individuals is critical to remain resilient and relevant in the 21st century economy.

With hundreds of self-analysis tools available (MBT, Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument; The Success DNA; etc.), or asking peers or colleagues to identify interests, skills and strengths are vital. What has been my proudest accomplishments? What kind of work makes me happiest? Do I prefer individual or group work? What skills have I been strongest at in past projects?
Before mapping out what job opportunities you could explore, it is important to first do an internal audit of your unique skills, interests and motivating drivers.

Step 2: Understand in-demand skills

While globalization may have minimized the variance in domestic and international industry trends, each country has very different dynamics in the job market that can affect one’s employability. You need to understand those differences in terms of what the current labor market is looking for in your host country. In another article we consider on a micro level what “What skills are better to hone for landing a good job?” but here we want to focus on the bigger picture of how to understand industries to position yourself advantageously.

In reality, understanding what companies are looking for can also help you complement your self-analysis exercise. It can work as a double-check mean of what you already have, in terms of skills, and what is in demand. Who knows, you might have the sociologist title (and eventually even the license) back at home and a master’s and eventually PhD in Japan (still same line-sociology) but shaped an interesting skill: you are now very good with statistics and data analysis.

Step 3: Decide the expertise you want to build

For new graduates or people transitioning from universities and research institutes, you will probably have realized that job opportunities within academia are limited and highly competitive. With companies’ screening of candidates becoming more difficult, being a degree-holder is no longer sufficient. It is important to translate how your skills can be applied in a corporate setting – for example, a graduate in Mathematics have strengths in data analysis and quantitative analysis, both of which could for instance be used in social marketing or business. Avoid falling into either extreme of being a generalist or specialist but to try create a healthy balance between the two through a T-shape career path.

Step 4: Explore and evaluate jobs related to your expertise and go!

Having gained an understanding of your strengths; identified your skills and what the most in-demand industry skills are, you now have a personalized filter to help explore and evaluate jobs that may be good for you. Familiarize yourself with job titles and responsibilities through job boards or personal networks who have experience in fields of interest (e.g. LinkedIn). Leverage recruitment companies and ask for help on job advertisements if they seem too general, do not feel shy to ask for more details.
Investing time to see what opportunities exist help you hone in on work that you are passionate about and you might be surprised to find that it wasn’t what you had initially expected. Shifting careers to a different area does not have to be at the expense of your career track or expertise. In fact, being open to exploring may, in fact, enhance employability.

There are of course countless other methods to help you find work that may not fit our preconceived ideas of the ‘perfect’ job. That said, we hope these four steps will help you to remain resilient and hopeful in your job-hunting journey.

More than 9000 people have registered with Active Connector to get special access to job recommendations.
Be the next one to get a dream job through us!