Stuck in the Slow Career Lane By a Fast Food Job!

Dear Work Coach,

I have been working at the same fast food place for the past 7 years and have been a manager now for a year. I am looking for something more professional, but I don’t have any experience in anything but food service. What do I do?




Hi Lisa!

Great question. I think there are a lot of people in the same boat as you.

Without more information, it’s hard for me to focus in on the best options for you to make your career change. Here are some possible places for you to focus:

  • Do you have a college degree? If not, you might want to start thinking about getting one. Even just beginning can actually open up new jobs through the career development office at the college or university. And if you already have a degree, it might be time to pay a visit (in person or online) to their alumni services and see if career help is available. (There are also many places you can go without that degree. Just hard to advance in some places.)
  • Is there a particular industry or type of job you’d like to work in? Before thinking about a career change, it pays to take some time to explore what’s out there that you might like. Bookstores, newspaper ads, websites and even friends are all great places to start. Bookstores also have books that help you figure out where your greatest skills and interests lie if you don’t already know that.
  • Management skills can be applied to other places. Assuming you do know the type of industry you’re interested in, then you need to research local companies in that field and see what kinds of jobs are available in general before even starting your search. Also pay attention to places with management training programs which often look for basic skills, but are designed to give you the field-specific experience you lack. Once you have things narrowed down, it’s time to think about networking and a targeted resume. (See below)
  • Do you need to go back to school? Whether you have a college degree or not, often a good way to make a career change is by taking some courses or a certificate program at a local college. For instance, if computers interest you at all, there are lots of paths there from programming to website design to tech support. I noticed a flourish around your signature. Maybe you want to study something related to your artistic ability.
  • Networking is a great way to help you switch jobs. I once wanted to get into an industry I had no experience for and I managed to do by being patient and slowly letting everyone I know what I wanted – even people I met at parties. Eventually, I got it. If you have relationships with any customers or companies you deal with, you might casually mention you are thinking about something new one day and see if anyone has ideas. Possibly one of your vendors has something that might interest you. Of course, be discreet and only talk to people you trust and ONLY if you think it’s ok. Also, friends, family, and former schoolmates are good for this kind of exploratory discussion. Clubs you belong to (think about joining some if you don’t) or groups you volunteer with are good too. For the most part, you are just looking for ideas – not a job yet. That usually comes later. But of course, if something comes your way…!
  • Get some other experience. You say you only have food service experience, so as obvious as it may sound, you want to get other experience. Can you take any part-time work in another field? Is there someone you know you can start helping for free in your spare time? If you can afford to leave your job, then temp work is another way to explore possibilities as is volunteering either in your spare time or as a full-time volunteer if you can afford to do that. (See below.)
  • Volunteering! If none of the other paths get you to new horizons, try volunteering at a non-profit. Not only can you learn new skills (and a whole new industry), but you might hear of an opening at the place you’re volunteering. Or they may hear of one elsewhere and help you get there.
  • You need a good resume and cover letter that emphasize your skills rather than your particular experience. You can find some help at Resume Help and over at Susan Ireland’s website.

As I said, it’s hard to zero in on what you need to do without knowing all the details. Professional Career Coaches work with clients for months or longer to help them transition their careers. But I think I’ve given you enough ideas to at least get you started. There are also more tips on this blog if you just snoop around a bit.

The main point is with a little creativity and determination, you definitely can get yourself to a new career. I’ve done it myself MANY times. 🙂

Good luck!

Ronnie Ann


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.

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