Debra Feldman

Landing a Job in a Different Industry

How to be hired in a new role.

April 21, 2011
by Debra Feldman

Company closings, staffing cutbacks, mergers, consolidations and other circumstances have decreased the number of jobs in certain industries forcing individuals to seek employment in an industry that's new to them. Other successful professionals have found that they must switch roles and emphasize different skills in order to find a new position whether in the same or a different field. It's a matter of choice for some to take their careers in a new direction. But, from an employer's perspective, they are taking a big and unnecessary risk hiring untested talent. It's possible to overcome this bias by anticipating and then addressing employers' concerns and giving them a reason to be confident in your ability to succeed within their organization.

In general, it is usually more difficult to switch industries or change careers than to seek a new opportunity in which you have direct experience. Employers are risk adverse and tend to hire people with a background that is familiar with the challenges in their field; they are not interested in round pegs for their square holes. Employers often want to hire someone who has proven that they can do the job. They want evidence of having been successful working in a similar role at an industry competitor. The recession has added an additional roadblock for those seeking a career change by producing an oversupply of great talent; companies do not have to go outside their comfort zone to fill one of their limited openings. It's a very competitive job market overflowing with qualified prospects, so those who are not perfect are marginalized.

While making a change can be extremely challenging for candidates, employers are also struggling with how to choose from the variety and volume of prospects. They are deluged with resumes spanning from the overqualified to ones that are totally inappropriate. You must demonstrate that you can do the job and solve the employer's problems. You have to convince decision-makers that despite not having a background that conforms to their ideal applicant, you can produce results reliably and will learn the ropes quickly.

One of the best ways to facilitate a change is to find an industry that appreciates your credentials and needs your knowledge. This includes suppliers, vendors, partners, competitors in both your current industry and new sector that may not have a depth of talent, but in which your skill can easily be applied or the closest that the employer can find. For example, the digital media in its infancy drew talent away from print when it was a brand new field because no one had the necessary experience. The few who were pioneers and had digital experience were not sufficient to fill the demand, so employers became more flexible about hiring talent who could adapt or be trained.

Four Tips to Help You Succeed

Here are a few tips to facilitate a transition into a new industry or into a new role:

  • Think like an employer. Look for an opportunity where you have related experience and skills very similar to those needed in the new industry or role. For example, if you drive a car, adapting to a larger "car' or a truck makes more sense than leaping to piloting a boat or plane.
  • Inventory your strengths and spell these out with success stories illustrating your abilities. Instead of describing past duties and responsibilities to a new employer, demonstrate core competencies by divulging how you approached a situation in order to address it.
  • Adapt to a new environment. While your experience may be in a different industry or role, you can show that you are capable of adjusting and are flexible by detailing the variety and complexity of assignments that required you to master new challenges.
  • Network and get referrals. Persuade employers to be interested in you even when there are other more perfect candidates available. How? Through personal recommendations. Have a mutual contact vouch for you. When prioritizing your job search efforts, connect with people who know hiring managers at your target companies. Getting an employee referral is the number one best way to increase your odds of being hired into a company.
So there you have it. Start the process and let the chips fall accordingly. Before you know it, you'll be on the road to success.

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Debra Feldman is the JobWhiz(TM), a nationally-recognized expert who designs and personally implements swift, strategic and customized senior level executive job search campaigns, banishing barriers that prevent immediate success. Her gift for Networking Purposefully(TM) and expediting stalled job searches connects candidates directly to decision makers, not HR. Learn more about her groundbreaking techniques that compress job searches from months into weeks leveraging online visibility and maximizing traditional techniques.

(C) Copyright, 2011, Debra Feldman. All rights reserved. Used with permission.