How to transition to a new industry sector
Phil Soffe, Managing Consultant
Candidates looking for work, particularly at the moment, may need to consider a transfer from an industry sector where they have several years’ experience to one where they don’t.
In some cases – e.g. where the job ad stipulates ‘a minimum of 5 years’ experience in the investment banking sector’, this will be extremely difficult to do. As a recruiter, I will work against a detailed brief, and it’s my responsibility to submit the candidates who have the closest match to the client’s requirements, and in this market, I will have many options where I can fulfil that exact requirement.
But! Many hiring managers may not be so rigid in their view of sector experience – and indeed some will be attracted by the idea of bringing in new ideas and perspectives from other areas.
If you find yourself looking for work in new industry sectors, I’ve put together some suggestions to help with your transition:
1) Research – Research the sectors you might want to transition to. Think about and identify what about them appeal to you; identify gaps in your sector knowledge and fill them; identify the trends within that sector – where the developments, challenges and opportunities are for the type of business you will be hoping to join.
Look at the job descriptions and candidate profiles of people within your targeted sector. Try to find the patterns – for example the background experience they request, academic qualifications, tech stacks, project methodologies.
Then, mirror and match the language they use and embed this in your CV.
2) Highlight your transferable skills – You have a responsibility to demonstrate your relevance to any potential new employer, so make sure you emphasise which of your skills they will value.
Try and find an interesting angle where possible. For example, if you’re a Supplier Manager, you may not know the industry sector you’re now approaching, but you may well know the suppliers the targeted organisation engage with. This would be of great interest to a hiring manager! Alternatively, you could demonstrate how you designed a supplier audit or beauty parade; how you worked with suppliers in the past to improve service delivery and improve productivity.
Some job roles are easily transferable, for example Project & Change Management, Security, and Software Engineering. In these instances, you will need to find an angle to create synergies between your experience and the needs of the targeted organisation. Your research may have identified some interesting needs and you can look to further highlight these areas at application stage.
Finally, don’t forget to focus on the other skills and experience you can offer that could be of real value, for example innovation, leadership style, strategic planning, track record of delivery etc.
3) Don’t forget your ‘Soft’ skills – Remember that if you can get in front of a potential hiring manager, your soft skills can have a heavy influence on the final outcome. Demonstrate your energy and enthusiasm, your positivity, your critical thinking, influencing skills, communication abilities etc. You will be surprised by how many people hire on this basis.
4) Ask your network – The benefits of leaning on your network cannot be underestimated and can really help through someone providing a simple introduction or a glowing endorsement. Your friends and business colleagues are your allies, and whilst you may feel uncomfortable leaning on them, I can guarantee you that they will be more than happy to help. My key message here is don’t be afraid to ask for help.
5) Demonstrate your ability to change – Have you changed industry sectors in the past? The ability to quickly adapt to new environments gives hiring managers the confidence that you can hit the ground running and will require minimal supervision. Try to evidence this where possible.
6) Learn and up-skill – Critically assess your skill set and try to identify any gaps in your knowledge. Can you further improve your skills and learn more about the targeted industry sector through on-line courses, professional groups, and qualifications? In addition to improving your offer, showing that you have up-skilled on your own initiative is something in itself that will prove attractive to prospective employers.
– Job searching is far from easy, and just trying to get your foot in the door can sometimes feel like an insurmountable challenge. Be realistic, target the opportunities where the organisation can really benefit from your skills. A handful of quality applications is far better than dozens of irrelevant applications. Accept that there will be knock-backs as part of the journey to find the right role.
I hope this is useful, and wish you every success with your next career move. I would welcome any comments, and / or questions that you may have.
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