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  • Selling Your Career Change on a Grad School Application

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    Maybe you're a chef with dreams of law school or a corporate executive pondering a career in the arts.

    Whatever your situation, it is possible to enter a totally new industry. Career jumping has become a common (and acceptable) practice among working professionals.

    To make the leap, however, you may need additional education. If you're applying to graduate school as a career–jumper, you must convince admissions committees that you've thought through your decision and are serious about changing paths. You must also show that you understand your new field, even if you don't have professional experience in it.

    Here are three tips to help career–jumpers create a strong grad school application.

    Tip #1: Talk the talk.

    Do your homework. Research your prospective industry and have a thorough command of its jargon. Study trends, industry experts and the history of the field, and include this knowledge in your application where appropriate (it is possible to go overboard). For example, a medical doctor applying to law school could mention current legal issues in medicine that fascinate him, using the relevant legal terminology.

    Tip #2: Demonstrate commitment.

    Admissions officers will want assurance that you understand and are dedicated to your new field. To demonstrate your passion and commitment, find a relevant volunteer job or internship. You should also contact professors and current students; you might even try to sit in on some classes at your local university or enroll in a distance-learning program.

    Tip #3: Find a bridge.

    Discuss how your old occupation has prepared you for your new path. Maybe both require similar talents such as researching, writing, managing a budget, working with new technology or thinking creatively. Even broad skills such as overcoming obstacles, multi–tasking and giving polished oral presentations are transferable between different professions.

    Remember, a good application will link your past experience with your new goals. You should explain how you came to the decision to switch careers, and what skills you bring to the table. By doing so, you demonstrate the maturity and forethought necessary for such a switch.