Am I a professional Adam West?
May 18, 2009 8:09 AM   Subscribe

When do you become professionally typecast?

Since graduating college, I've worked for the same software company for five years in sales or sales-related roles. I don't think sales is for me. I'm good at it, but I don't love it.

I want to begin pursuing some other, as yet-unidentified, career. Once identified, I might need to get the appropriate educational credentials, during which time I would prefer to stay with my current employer (because, who knows, the new role may be with my current employer if I'm lucky, because I really do love the company and the people I work with).

That said, if I were to start applying for, say, marketing jobs or product-type jobs in a couple of years, would I be typecast as a salesperson and have my resume overlooked? At what point are you professionally typecast?

If you feel that I would be typecast after 7 to 8 years in similar roles, what other extracurricular activities (aside from continuing education) could I involve myself in to break out of the typecast?

(I'd particularly love to hear from MeFites who might review resumes all day long.)
posted by po822000 to Work & Money (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As a rule of thumb, I doubt that you'd be "professionally typecast" if you're about 27, assuming that you graduated at 22. I think that people would understand that you wouldn't want to do that all your life.

One of the things that can help you break out is to find other responsibilities to assume. Is there any way in your current job or with your current employer to get experience with some of the things that you'd like to be doing?
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:21 AM on May 18, 2009

I'm going to be contrarian and say the fact that you don't love your job is not necessarily a reason to change it. The odds of you loving any job are pretty low. I think your (our? I'm 41 - not sure where the generational line is) generation has been sold a pipe dream with the idea that we will all love our jobs. It's work. Yeah, a few people manage to combine their passion and their job, but odds are marketing, or public relations, or whatever will sit with you about as well as sales. Really, they aren't that different. Maybe if you something dramatically different like learn to code, but then all you have to do is search here for posts from bored programmers looking for a way out.

That said, you are young, and presumably aren't tied down with a mortgage or kids or other responsibilities so now is the time to try something different. At 27 with 5 years experience nobody will have you pigeon-holed as a career sales professional. However, changing jobs to change careers is always more difficult than finding another job doing what you already do. It isn't that companies typecast you so much as they don't want to take to risk of hiring you to do something you haven't already proven to be competent at. Your odds might be better at a small software company where one person has both sales and marketing or product management responsibilities. Just don't be surprised when after the new job shine wears off you find yourself feeling the same way that you do today.
posted by COD at 8:52 AM on May 18, 2009

While I don't review resumes all day long (sorry!), I'm a consultant involved in the hiring process and see lots of resumes from candidates I assess, plus I have a background in career management so perhaps I have a perspective of value to offer.

Being typecast as a sales guy is not much of an issue given your age and tenure with your company. The types of skills and business knowledge you've gained in your sales roles tend to translate well into other areas. A move from sales into marketing or product management is a fairly natural career path into management type roles in sales, marketing, or even general management.

In fact, if you were to start to investigate these other, related fields now -- rather than waiting a few years to apply for jobs in those areas -- you would be far better prepared to decide which career path you wanted to follow and you could get a jump on whatever sort of educational or other experience you might need to make the switch.

Especially since you would much like to stay in your current company, you could certainly begin doing some informational interviewing (either formally or informally) regarding the potential career shifts that interest you.
posted by DrGail at 9:37 AM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

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