Applying for a Job in a New Industry
Understand That You Will Face Competition
Michele Mavi is a career strategist and founder of Monumental Me, a coaching firm. “Under the best of circumstances, when you’re making a career transition, you have to face the reality that you’re competing against candidates who currently have the intimate knowledge and related experience to perform the open role,” Mavi says. That doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean being realistic, she says.
The biggest advantage someone making a career transition can bring to a company, says Mavi, is a fresh perspective. That can be an important point to emphasize when interviewing for a new role.
Having experience in the industry can be a boon. Maybe you’ve worked in business development in a manufacturing environment but want to move into HR. You can leverage your knowledge of the industry to help convey how you might use that knowledge to shift to a different role.
It’s important to anticipate potential barriers when trying to break into a new field or industry. Matthew Warzel, CPRW is president of MJW Careers, LLC, a career coaching and resume writing firm. “A good rule of thumb for any job hunter seeking a new role in a new industry is to identify your transferable skills and portray those first on your LinkedIn profile and resume,” suggests Warzel. “Have a solid summary up front, mentioning your ability to transfer seamlessly into the new role based off your previous experience and education.”
Using the lingo or language of the new position or industry is important, Warzel says. That shows that you’ve done your homework and at least understand the basics of an industry that, based on your past experience, may be new to you.
Doing your research is critically important. “You need to get a feel for the way the industry and respective companies function in the world, the services they provide to others, and the types of jobs out there in that industry that could pose as a potential new career,” Warzel suggests. He recommends sources like Google News, Google Alerts, Salary.com, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn to uncover industry and job research. These, he says, can provide “a good way to spot industry and job keywords (for the core competencies and summary sections), role responsibilities (for the experience section), and important transferable contributions (for the accomplishments section) for inclusion on your resume.
Changing industries entirely is certainly possible, though. Ultimately, says Christy Noel, a career expert and author of “Your Career Survival Guide: How to Get and Keep a Job in Times of Crisis,” skills matter more than industry experience. “I would much rather hire someone who has the skills I am looking for than if they’ve worked in the right industry but don’t have the right experience,” Noel says. “I can teach an industry. I cannot teach missing skills and experience.”
Best Practice Recommendations
Noel recommends only applying for jobs in a new industry where you can provide details on your experience in the core skills within the job description and show your success and accomplishments, with metrics, for the primary responsibilities of the position. “Hard truth, it’s a competitive market,” she says. “Hiring managers can find candidates with the skills they are looking for, so if you don’t have the experience, skills or industry they are looking for, you’ll be wasting your time. Focus on the positions you are qualified for and share with them real examples of how you performed the position in a different industry but how that will apply perfectly to the industry you are pursuing.”
If you just really don’t have much to draw upon in terms of experience or credentials, consider taking advantage of continuing education or training opportunities to help boost your skills for a new career, Warzel suggests. “Seek out academic programs that can help train and prepare you for your new role while you’re in limbo,” he says. “Find some new career job openings and the minimal qualifications in each, identify the possible credentials you may need to better position yourself in this new role, and find online institutions that you can acquire these credentials.” Membership groups and industry networking opportunities also can be good ways to learn about an industry and how your background might be a good fit, or where you may need to boost your skills through training.
What Recruiters, HR Pros and Hiring Managers Look For
When applying for a job in any industry or field, it’s important to think about your situation from the hiring manager’s point of view, says Warzel.
Mavi says there are two major things she looks for. “The first is an essential rather than an exact skill set,” she says. For example, if analytics is part of the job, she would look for someone who possesses the fundamental knowledge and experience of dealing with data in general regardless of having exact experience with specific types of data. Secondly, she would want to understand the real reason an individual wants to make a change. “This has two components to it, an emotional component that shows a passion to make the change and the logical reasoning that supports the passion,” she says.
For instance, if a business development professional was routinely involved in the hiring process for the organization and through that experience started to become more passionate about recruiting, that can be a compelling and very relevant reason to seek a change.
Just as when translating military experience into credentials that can position you well for a job, focusing on how your credentials in one industry can help you transition seamlessly to another can help you navigate the tricky terrain of making a shift.
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