Changing Industry Is Difficult But Not Impossible

With a recession in full swing many candidates are seeking to change industries. This is especially true if most of your experience is in an industry that has been hard hit in the recession. Some examples are the mortgage, financial or manufacturing industries. As an executive recruiter I often coach candidates on the best ways to go about changing industries. It is possible, but it also takes planning and patience. Two things lacking in many candidates.

Making an industry change in this economy is difficult, unless you have one of those jobs in which the skills required are not industry specific. That means your skills and training are easily transferable to another industry. The issue you have to overcome is that your competition for an opening will probably include people with extensive experience in the industry your want to move to. Most companies will look at those with industry experience first. Companies always prefer a person with direct industry experience over those without it. There are specific positions where industry experience is critical. For example sales positions. Knowing the customers and having contacts is clearly a benefit. On the other hand other functions, accounting, human resources and customer service are often transferable between industries. So I recommend taking some time to identify what are your transferable skills and how will they be of benefit in the new industry.

The best way to make an industry change is through networking. You need to build relationships with people in the industry. To do this consider attending professional associations, joining networking groups in the industry you desire to move to, attend trade shows or conferences, and start connecting with people in your local area. As they get to know you they will be able to determine how your strengths, outside their industry, can apply to the problems they need solved in their company. In this case going through recruiters or submitting resumes via ads are long shots.

There are some barriers you should think about overcoming when changing industries, assuming your skills are easily transferable. The first one is compensation. Chances are you are more valuable in the industry you come from than some unrelated industry. So the level of compensation will probably be less in a new industry than what you have been making. Secondly, the position will probably be at a lower level. If you were a manager in your industry, you may not qualify as a manager in the new industry. Finally, some additional training and education may be required.

Making an industry change takes planning. It isn’t something that happens all of a sudden because you are unemployed. In fact, once you are unemployed it maybe too late to start thinking about an industry change.

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