When reorientation rhymes with frustration

“At first, my unemployed counselor didn’t want to hear about my new professional project: he kept telling me to apply for finance.” Emily * 31 years old. She knows that reorientation, which is now often presented as a “must” in life, is not always obvious.

After a fairly general bachelor’s and master’s degree in French-speaking Switzerland, she happened to have a very specialized internship in finance. A job he likes moderately. But when she graduated, this line in her resume really matters to companies. She eventually takes a stand, telling herself that she can always change later. But Emily is increasingly bored at work.

“I locked myself in”

“I realized that I was locked in myself and would not be able to move if I continued in such a specific position. At the same time, I discovered communication when I saw what my colleague was doing, ”she says. Then she took evening classes for a year and quit.

But in the sector she is interested in, all work requires several years of experience, and when she receives a response to her application, she is only told that they have preferred a “closer to the requested” profile.

Evidence that does not surprise Claudia Jonczyk Sedes, director of the Institute of Management at the University of Neuchâtel and professor of strategic management. “With a more specialized education system, this observation is quite common. The Swiss labor market has an excellent system of apprenticeships and diplomas for teaching and preparing people for certain professions. The downside is that there is less tolerance for a complete lane change after that. ” She adds that the reaction of employers can be a mixture of fear – will this person be able to study, work? – and complacency. “If I have candidates who already have the training, skills and experience, why spend extra time training someone with other experience?”

Despite a medical certificate confirming that her previous work has affected her health, Emily’s unemployment counselor continues to refer her to the sector first. What she refuses to do: “It would mean a new step in a direction I don’t want to go.” Today, Emily’s horizons are widening: she has been given a temporary appointment as a communications officer through the PPE + program in Geneva (a preparatory employment program for skilled or minimally experienced people who need initial or additional experience). And thanks to the network created during this experience, she signed a fixed-term contract.

“If there is a medical limitation or inability to pursue this profession due to changes in the labor market, the HR adviser must take this into account,” said Carol Singarella, director of the Employment Service in Geneva. Consultants will see where there are the most job opportunities. People’s aspirations are taken into account, but the reintegration project must be realistic and quickly achievable. If this is not the case, we try to find an alternative that will allow us to go as far as possible in the desired direction.

Deficit as a trigger?

One element can change the situation for profiles like Emily: the lack of staff that Switzerland suffers from. “Today, we combine very low unemployment with very high staffing needs,” said Laurent Vasele, director of French-speaking Switzerland Manpower. Therefore, human resources must reduce their needs. Of course, not all companies are in this trend, some do not have time to train or wait for a very specific path, but the deficit accelerates this process. Claudia Jonczyk Sedes joins him: “Not wanting to be cynical, sometimes the pressure on the labor market must be strong enough for employers to be more willing to study less traditional profiles.”

Antonina Munafo, HR manager at the Platform 10 Museum Center, formerly HR for the banking sector, encourages recruiters to broaden their horizons in any situation, even if there is no shortage of talent. “It also makes our job interesting: when we become aware of our cognitive biases, which can lead to us unfairly firing someone because of their age, for example. We must be open to different profiles, whose rich experience brings additional value to the institution. We recruit people, not resumes. Human resources are moving in this direction. ” She notes that there are also wonderful stories of successful conversions.

The importance of the network

The candidates themselves also have a role to play, recalls Antonina Munafo. First, awareness and acceptance of the risk that reorientation may pose, and documenting the sector above. “You should also be able to identify skills acquired in your first professional life that can be transferred to this new field of activity. It is important to give specific examples of achievements that illustrate these skills. It is also important to create a network, in particular to attend conferences, ”she adds. “It is important if you can mobilize someone in the company you are targeting who will be confident that you will succeed in such a transition,” adds Claudia Jonczyk Sedes.

But does the newcomer really have a chance against the one who ticked it? For Laurent Vasele, this is more relevant today, because “companies attach more importance to soft skills, human qualities, resilience to stress” – these famous soft skills. Provided that the candidate can nominate them during the interview.

48-year-old Kateryna is unable to get an interview in the sector she focuses on. After school, professions such as journalism and communication gave him the impression that he was reserved for a certain elite. “Yes, even though I was more of a literary person, I entered the business environment as a salesperson. I also spent ten years in London, including sales, ”she explains.

Thousands of francs were spent

But in 2012, Kateryna lost her job and asked herself: did she dream of journalism or, perhaps, of communication? She then spent a year and a half of distance learning in journalism in France to support her professional activities through a state-recognized organization that allows her to obtain a certificate. She does other continuing education, opens a blog. “I can’t say that my studies brought me much but personal interest, and I spent thousands of francs on it,” she admits. I was never given a chance, I have no answer to my postulates.

Kateryna condemns a certain hypocrisy between the speech about reorientation and the possibilities of its concretization, “but, perhaps, more for other professions,” she said. She plans to abandon reorientation and continue writing as an additional activity. This week she is interviewing… in her “old” domain. “It seems to me that I’m crying for not choosing the right path at 18,” she laments.

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* Assumed name.