I get a lot of questions from job seekers about breaking into a new industry. This is a common goal among professionals who like the skill set they’re using, but feel bored, maxed out, or even pigeonholed. For example, you might be a sales professional interested in changing from healthcare sales to tech sales. Or you may be a project manager in telecom who’s looking for a project management role in software.These types of industry transitions are what I call “career pivots” that often take two to three months to achieve. These are quite different from full-blown career changes, which are more time- and resource-intensive.Here are some specific strategies for entering a new industry and shaking up your career:
- Identify your transferable skills. What knowledge and skills have you amassed that would be relevant in the new industry? Examples of highly transferable skills include project management, business development, relationship building, leadership skills, and writing and communication. Be specific as you identify how these skills could be useful in your new role. You will need to provide examples of this in an interview, so think of times you have demonstrated those skills and why they would be valuable to a new type of customer or employer.
- Research the new industry. It’s important to identify the nuances of this new industry: what matters most to its customers, vendors, and employers? Are there different laws or compliance regulations that you’ll need to know? Do they have a different way of doing business? Is there a new software system you’ll need to learn? You can do a fair amount of research online and read industry blogs and journals to learn about trends, issues, and opportunities in the new industry.
- Network. If you hope to break into an industry in which you have no experience, you’ll need to make connections and network your way in. Doing online research won’t be enough. Reach out and do some informational interviews.
- You may need some new skills. You've already identified your skills in Step #1. Now, identify the skills that you will need for this new industry, and come up with a plan to bridge the gap and obtain them. This is also something you can ask your network (Step #3) about: what new skills will you need, and how you can obtain them.
- Retool your resume. Think of your resume as a strategic marketing document instead of a list of everything you've done in your career. It's okay to leave off jobs that are not as relevant to your new career direction. You should focus primarily on the top half of the first page of your resume, which is the most-read section. Make sure the headline and key skills that you showcase are the most relevant one to the new industry.
- Be prepared to take a bit of a step back in title or salary (sometimes). When you're making a career pivot or change, this is sometimes necessary. I did this when I left retail management to obtain a corporate position within human resources. The first step for me was shifting from a salaried manager position back to being an hourly employee – but I was thrilled to do this because I was gaining great experience that would help me forge a new path. I had never been happier to make $17/hour! You may need to be flexible and accept a lower title or salary to make the change you want.