Career Q&A: “What Do I Need to Know About Changing Industries?”

changing industriesMost working professionals will confess that their careers have taken widely divergent paths from the original goal… and these shifts include changing industries.

And for some people, their work background looks like a checkerboard of hop-scotch moves that seem, from the 10,000-foot level, almost impossible to have even imagined from the start.

But below the surface, some of these moves make sense when you start looking at the flowing underground river of skills that have helped transport those folks from Point A to Point B.

Changing industries is not as difficult as you might think.  It does require some strategic thinking and proactive steps to get there, however.

Here are some sure-fire ways to help leapfrog into changing industries:

Assess your current skill sets.  Many skills are transferable. You need to take a good, long look at what skills you do possess, and examine what the new industry requires.  Then be honest.  What percent of your existing skill sets match the ones necessary to do the new job?  If you have gaps, don’t despair.  It’s what you do next that matters most in changing course to a new direction.

Identify connecting activities.  Changing industries can be easy if you know what you need to do to gain the right skill sets.  New skills can be acquired through connecting activities such as taking classes in that job field or new job function, joining professional organizations relevant to that field, and volunteering within those organizations to put those skills into action.

Build your network. You can have a stellar background and skill sets, but if you don’t have anyone to send your résumé to, you’re going nowhere really fast.  Contacts inside of target companies can help pave the way for your candidacy for job openings by assisting in making the case for your ability to do a job.  These “helping hands” are a critical piece of the changing industries puzzle.  The more they know about what you are capable of, the more willing they will be to go to bat for you.

Always keep a look out for how you might add skills while you are in your current job.  Sometimes, it’s easy to become complacent in a current workplace. Things are going well, you like what you do, and the work you are doing is positive. But you should always be one step ahead and be thinking of your next move even if you are happy with your current job.  Understand where your skill gaps are, what skills need to be updated, and even understand where you might acquire thought leadership ideas at industry conferences so you can bring back new ideas to the workplace, and therefore enhance your own skill sets in the process.

The takeaway here is that you should always be gaining skills to roll into your next job.  Successful people are always in continuous learning mode, and remain open to gaining experience and knowledge. Understanding how to roll those skills in changing industries is the key. Ask yourself:  If I want to switch to _____ field, what do I need to do to get there?  Then set a plan in motion.

And if your current employer is unwilling to pay for the classes/conferences/training/certifications, don’t be afraid to invest in yourself.

It can pay off in spades later as you will be well-equipped to be changing industries when the opportunity arises.

Got a question about a job search? Email me at [email protected] or post a comment at the end of this article.  Selected topics will be posted in following weeks.