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I have a simple question I haven't been able to find much advice on.

Imagine I want to switch careers or roles within my sector as an experienced professional. There's a big overlap between the educational backgrounds for the careers or roles: people with the same degree out of college can initially easily go into both careers at entry level. I have a lot of transferable skills, acquired relevant, reputable education and provably possess the ability to quickly learn what I need on the job.
Is it then OK or productive to apply to positions in the new role with a seniority level closer to my level of seniority in my current role? Or is the expectation of hiring managers typically that career switchers should start from scratch in a junior/entry level position? The big assumption here is that I could do the other role at (almost) the same level of seniority as my current role, because, whether evident or not to the hiring manager, there is a lot of overlap in knowledge, attitudes and skills between the roles.

I am specifically dealing with this conundrum in the IT/software development sector, contemplating switching from software engineering to data engineering having completed a master's in AI and big data.

I appreciate your thoughts and input.

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    Talk to recruiters in your desired field. They'll be able to tell you a lot more about how relevant your experience is than a generic answer. Jul 13, 2023 at 12:01
  • "from software engineering to data engineering" - is there really any difference in these fields at all? They sound like variant job titles for the same role, and I certainly doubt there are appreciable differences in knowledge, philosophy, or cognitive skills required.
    – Steve
    Jul 13, 2023 at 15:27
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    @Steve these are my semi-informed thoughts too. Especially in engineering and IT fields I feel there is a high sprawl of often buzzwordish job titles that makes us feel stuck in a niche artificially. But I can't blame recruiters or hiring managers with no hands-on industry experience for not really understanding that yet. Jul 14, 2023 at 10:02
  • @JoeStrazzere in my specific case I am coming from my first senior role with about 5 years experience. However, I purposely kept the question more general since I'm interested in the general principles that people in industry are applying. Jul 14, 2023 at 10:04
  • @PhilipKendall I think this is indeed probably the best thing to do. It does require knowing these recruiters or reaching out to ones that aren't swamped with work, but I agree in principle it's best to just ask and networking is important anyways. Jul 14, 2023 at 10:05

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Is it then OK or productive to apply to positions in the new role with a seniority level closer to my level of seniority in my current role?

It's certainly okay to give it a try and see what happens.

If you find that you aren't getting interviews, then set your sights lower.

Or is the expectation of hiring managers typically that career switchers should start from scratch in a junior/entry level position?

From the hiring manager's point of view, they typically want to hire someone into a senior role who is able to do the job immediately, without having to learn the role.

Only you (and potentially a hiring manager) can determine how well you fit into such a senior role. Certainly that depends in large part on the requirements of the specific job, and the details of your background and abilities.

I have a lot of transferable skills, acquired relevant, reputable education and provably possess the ability to quickly learn what I need on the job.

That's good. Be prepared to explain and prove to hiring managers how quickly you will be able to fully handle the new career role and why you are worth the pay and responsibilities of the senior role.

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  • You make an excellent point about seniority ultimately being about being able to do the job immediately. That indeed sounds like a very useful angle to sell yourself through. Jul 15, 2023 at 0:01
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The people that can make that determination are the hiring managers you will be dealing with. The issue will be can they justify to their company hiring you at level X. If you aren't ready for that role they will be overpaying you, but if they hire you at too low of a level you will be looking for another job before too long.

This is an example of why a person should tailor their resume to fit the job they are trying to get. The resume should highlight the things where your years of general experience are important, and the areas where you have overlap.

Use you cover letter to make your case.

If you are getting interviews that is a good sign. If they aren't telling you are under-qualified that is a good thing.

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    You make a good point about the cover letter. While they seem rather useless when applying to jobs that tie in directly to your CV they make a lot of sense to use for the purpose of explaining that you have a lot of transferable skills and experience and can thus, following Joe Strazzere's answer, do the job immediately with certain responsibilities or at a senior level Jul 15, 2023 at 0:07

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