How to switch to a job in a different industry
The first thing I would advise anyone contemplating a career change is to be prepared to work tremendously hard and to be humble about learning. You’ve got to lose your ego. No matter how naturally smart you are or how successful you were in a previous career, there is a tremendous learning curve involved in major career transitions and you have to be strong enough to risk looking foolish and inexperienced.
Susanne Rhow, in a Forbes interview
- Do you feel unfulfilled and bored at your current work?
- Did you not really choose to be there but were led to your current workplace by some ‘external’ circumstances?
- Do you only feel alive during weekends and holidays when you are doing what you actually love to do?
- Have your life priorities changed and ‘life / work balance’ become more important than before?
If so, the time might have come for you to consider a major career change…
Why you shouldn’t be afraid of switching industries
1. Skills and knowledge are transferable
Professions are split between industries. Knowledge is divided into disciplines. Correct? Well, No.
It’s a way of looking at it but this separation is artificial. The reality is One. We are not born to be a teacher, an accountant or a doctor - we are born with and develop a unique set of predispositions, skills and experiences that can be applied to different fields.
Increasingly, the ability to synthesize concepts across disciplines is much more valuable than domain knowledge, which is becoming commodity.
Greg Satell, on DigitalToronto
No knowledge is useless. It means all you’ve learnt so far is useful.
For example, do you enjoy inviting people to your place for barbeque and chatting with them? Chances are you have great social skills which are in high demand in the job market.
If you haven’t applied your skills to a professional field, it does not mean you don’t have them. And remember: we tend to forget about skills which are so natural for us than it became our second nature. Don’t confuse stages 1 and 4 below!
- Ignorance (= I don’t know that I don’t know)
- Unskilled (= I know I don’t know)
- Some skills (= I know and I know that I know)
- Expert (= I know and I don’t realise how well I know it so I even forget to mention it).
2. The era of lifelong job is over
It’s a global trend for people to have 8-10 different professions within a lifetime. There are a lot of emerging professions, for example, I’m working in a field which did not even exist when I was at University. Double degrees are considered by young people as an asset in job search and becoming increasingly popular. This educational trend only confirms profound employment changes we all are facing.
3. Qualifications and Experience are not all that matter
While University degrees and relevant experience matter, employers are putting greater emphasis on other characteristics, such as:
- emotional intelligence (twice as important as I.Q. + technical skills combined, according to Harvard Business School research quoted by Danial Goleman in his book Working With Emotional Intelligence)
- can-do attitude
- critical thinking
- problem-solving ability
On Jora Australia, only about 10% of jobs mention ‘X years experience’ as a job requirement. Companies are realising great people can learn and the hiring process is becoming more about personalities, not (only) resumés.
How to approach the change
1. Be open-minded. Never stop learning. Complete a MOOC course (Coursera is a great resource with many free options).
2. Don’t be shy. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t rely on online applications only - get in touch with hirers / recruiters via phone to build relationships and learn if you are the right fit for the position you are after.
3. Find an expert (a blog) in your future field, read main articles and discuss their content with your friends to better assimilate it.
4. Volunteer before you get a paid job in the new field - you will get invaluable field experience and an additional relevant line in your resumé to successfully get through an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) before you land a job interview.
5. Take smaller steps for a smoother transition.
- A former TV and radio journalist I interviewed for this article reported moving to online journalism before getting into online marketing. She described her transition as quite natural.
- A job in a start-up in your ‘old’ industry will allow you to learn a lot about start-up culture before moving to another start-up in a new industry you are aiming for.
4. Identify your transferable skills.
There’s a difference between not being qualified and having strong transferable skills that you’re not even aware of.
Jon Carpenter, in a very good article How to apply for a job in a different field when you have no experience
5. Subscribe to free Jora email alerts to get a gist of vacancies coming up within the industry you are aiming to work in, or just input the key skill you want to use if you are open to any change (that’s how I got my current job in Jora - one simple keyword, ‘French’, got me there).
How to get an interview
Here we go: you’ve just found a job ad which makes you feel quite excited, and looks like a perfect fit for you. Here are 4 simple steps you can take before you apply:
- Look at role
- Look at self
When switching industries, you should have a compelling reason for doing so - a good story always helps. It should make sense for you and your potential hirer, so it is of utmost importance to communicate this to get an interview. For example, have a chat to the recruiter before submitting your resumé, or include an Objective section in your resumé. It also might be better using a functional resumé structure, where the sections are grouped by key skills required.
Remember, you don’t need to show all skills required - just a majority of them and a track record of learning. You might not be aware of it but most employers over-advertise - putting all their ideal skills in the job description. In reality, they are willing to settle for a lot less, so don’t be afraid to apply even if you don’t meet all the requirements.
What to be prepared for
- You have to be ready to go back the square one in your new industry (at least for a first few months). Sometimes it can be hard to bear for the ego. But excellent to get humbler.
- Remember - you are not defined by what you do (but by who you are). And you will learn much quicker this time. You are not a complete beginner. You will be surprised how much prior knowledge and maturity you might have.
- Be aware of your core values. e.g. If being creative is of outmost importance for you, make sure you will be able to somehow apply this creativity in your future job - or be ready to give it up for good reasons.
And be bold! Do address your shortcomings. But if there is an inner voice mesmerising you with talks about failure, never ever listen to it.