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I am planning a career change from Mechanical Engineering to Banking. Although in some countries this seems to be a relatively common movement, mainly for junior or post-MBA positions, it is really, really uncommon where I live (a region in Europe with a large proportion of industrial firms). In fact, my professors at university know of nobody who has taken this decision, and nobody else I have asked does.

How can I explain this decision in an interview with the bank staff? I think I could be asked why I want to work in the bank if I have a good engineering job, being myself an engineer.

You might be answering: "it depends on what position you applied for, so you can answer that your skills are of great value to this position because whatever". Well, this is a recruitment process that was announced on press for many positions (30-50) and asked explicitly for engineers, mathematicians, lawyers, economists... So I don't know what job I would be doing: Investments? Project valuation? IT or big data stuff? No idea. I haven't been told.

So, more exactly, the question could be: How can I explain my willness to switch careers without knowing what the prospective future job is?

Thank you!


(Some background info that applies to my case only, in case you need a bit more information for context.)

A few months ago, I applied to a recruitment process in a local bank that explicitly asked for engineers and mathematicians, as well as lawyers, economists... The bank works in both retail banking (mortgages, loans...) and investing stuff (funds...). Since then, I have passed psychotechnical tests and a group dynamic test, and next week I have an interview with the bank staff, which is the last test of the recruitment process, i.e. there are no further stages or interviews. I don't who I will be talking to: Human Resources, a banker...

Titles and previous experience: I studied Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (BSc+MSc), graduated with excellent marks have been working for 3 years in a large engineering firm (no other previous experience), with interesting projects but some disadvantages I would like to avoid from now on. The actual reasons that explain my willness to change, which obviously cannot be mentioned in an interview when asked the previous bolded question, are:

  • The technical engineering work is rather undervalued, and furthermore I, as a junior engineer, bear all the responsibility for this part. I don't mind at all giving up the engineering part.
  • Projects take place in developing or non-developed countries, and therefore there is a big chance I would have to go there for a while (6-18 months is a likely range). However, I neither want nor can travel for so long to those countries due to mental health issues.
  • My current working hours are not horrible, but do exceed a 40-hour week, with fortunately a lot of flex time. This bank is known to have excellent working hours, though flex time would be lost. The better working hours would be a major benefit for me and I really look forward to them. The working hours in the bank depend on the position, so they are "just a bit better than now" in the better-paying positions and "really awesome" in the worse-paying positions: remember I don't know the job I could be doing. Please note that in my country there is a huge problems with schedules and working hours: in most firms it is customary to work until late.
  • As far as money is concerned: I may be taking a pay cut for the change, losing up to 1/3 of my wage, but I know that in future years this would be less of an issue, since the wages in both places are public up to certain point. The wage loss would depend on the position in the bank. This is not a matter of concern for me - of course I would rather not lose anything, but I still prefer the "really awesome" working hours.
  • The security of the jobs in this bank is high, while in my current form is just OK. This is also of major importance to me. However, in case of being fired from the bank, I would have a great problem due to my strange mixed engineering-banking profile and the horribly high unemployment rate in my country.

If I successfully pass the interview, I wouldn't take any job the bank offers me. For example, I wouldn't fit in a commercial position, let's say, selling mortgages or life insurances.


Some related links I have read, but which don't address the question I am trying to raise:

How to respond to "Why are you looking for a new job?"

How to approach candidate's career change during interview

Explaining change of career in an Interview

How to prepare for an onsite interview when you don't have a lot of info about the job

  • 1
    Do you intend to figure out what the job is before accepting an offer, or are you mostly planning to accept an offer regardless and figure it out on the job? There's nothing wrong with going into a first interview without having a particularly good idea what you'd be doing, but then you need to figure it out quickly at that point. – Dukeling Nov 5 '17 at 18:50
  • @Dukeling - I intend to figure out what the job is before accepting. I suppose they will tell me in the interview; otherwise, I will have to ask them. There are jobs in a bank where I wouldn't fit, for example, I can't imagine myself selling mortgages to people who want to buy a house. The issue is how to prepare an answer to the question in my current situation. As for the "going into a first interview": this is going to be the only interview in the recruitment process. Thanks! – jc-engineer Nov 5 '17 at 19:07
  • @JoeStrazzere At least in my country it is quite common for junior positions to send your CV to a company and let them decide the job you would be doing. Of course for senior positions and most press/Internet-advertised positions, you know what you're applying for. – jc-engineer Nov 6 '17 at 19:25
  • I'd rather not say for privacy, since quite a few of my coworkers read this site. A European country with a horribly high unemployment rate. There are not many. – jc-engineer Nov 7 '17 at 20:05
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You know why you want to make this switch. Perhaps you're embarrassed to tell them the real reasons, so you're looking for believable fake reasons. Or perhaps you're trying to answer "why should we want you?". Don't do either of those. Tell them why you want to switch careers. You have said right in your question:

I'm looking for a stable job that doesn't demand a lot of unpaid overtime without notice, where I can use the thinking and problem solving skills I've developed as an engineer. I like the idea of my work being the actual work of my employer, in this case banking, rather than something the employer doesn't value very much. I know as I get better in my job, there will be promotions available that relate to my skills in banking. Also, if I come to work for the bank, I won't have to travel to engineering project sites, but can work consistently from the same location.

Here you are actually saying most of the things you claim you can't say, but worded in a way that emphasizes the positive things about the bank job. Everyone wants to be valued. Telling someone "you will value me" usually works. Banks especially are well known to value stability. Don't word it in a way that sounds lazy like "I won't have to work so hard" but instead focus on predictability and consistency. It is ok to list "I won't have to spend months at a time in another country" as a benefit, but be careful because there are of course engineering jobs (I have held them) that don't require traveling to another country.

Convincing the bank you really want to work for them is important: they don't want to invest in hiring and training you for you to just decide "oh, I guess engineering was better after all" and go back. So make sure you answer that question, not "what do you bring to us that non-engineers don't", when you are asked. They know engineers bring something special: that's why they held the recruitment event. They also know quite a lot about you and your skills already.

  • Wouldn't it be wiser to avoid negative comments as "something the employer doesn't value much" or "I won't have to travel"? They may think I'm ranting about my current job. How would you address the "convincing them I want to work for them and not going back to engineering" part? As for the predictability and consistency: excellent ideas! – jc-engineer Nov 5 '17 at 19:23
  • When people say "never be negative" they mean don't give the interviewer a multi paragraph speech about how much you hate X", not "when mentioning how much you love Y be careful someone doesn't figure out you dislike the opposite of Y." Small sentence fragments that you don't like unexpected and unpaid overtime, you don't like long-term travel, etc are not the same as "all engineering firms are horrible exploiters who grind you down with unpaid overtime [etc for three paragraphs]." – Kate Gregory Nov 5 '17 at 19:27
  • How you convince them you won't leave them is you say "I really value X" (eg stability, feeling valued, not having to travel to third world countries) and they say to themselves (or even out loud to you) "Excellent! We are well placed to offer you plenty of X, which you value. This is going to work out great!" – Kate Gregory Nov 5 '17 at 19:29

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