How to Switch Industries

By Paula Santonocito

smw-how-to-switch-industriesQ. I’ve been in one field, financial services, for my entire career. How do I make the leap to another industry?

A. There’s good reason to reach beyond your comfort zone, particularly in the current employment environment. Layoffs and hiring freezes have hit some industries hard, while other sectors still have opportunity.

However, you must first demonstrate that your skills and experience, while developed and honed in one industry, will be an asset to an employer in another field.

To do this, you have to steer away from anything that might pigeon-hole you. This may very well require a totally different mindset, not to mention a complete rewrite of your resume.

If you’ve been an accountant in the banking industry, for example, it’s likely the position descriptions and accomplishments on your resume shout “banking” or “financial services.” Instead, you want them to read as though they could apply to another field.

How do you do this? Use generic terms. For starters, replace the word “bank” with “organization.” In other words, “Served as a member of the bank’s cost-savings committee” becomes “Served as a member of the organization’s cost-savings committee.”

All in all, when rewriting your resume, the goal is to position yourself as a professional whose area of expertise transcends industry.

Whether your resume begins with an objective will depend on the format you choose; but, if it does, this section allows for the perfect introduction. You should not present yourself as, “Accountant with 15 years in the banking industry seeks to use her skills in a different environment” (even though it may be the case). Instead, your message is “Corporate accountant with 15 years experience seeks to make a contribution to an organization that can benefit from her financial skills and expertise.”

Creating a resume and corresponding cover letter that get the attention of potential employers is tremendously important.

But you must also make the mental leap from a professional with industry-specific experience to a professional who is ready–make that eager–to enter a new field.

How do you do this?

If you’re an accountant in the banking industry with an eye toward the health care field, for example, you’ll want to research potential employers in health care. What companies are leaders in the industry? How are these companies structured? Where might you fit in? Are these organizations hiring? Do you know someone in health care, a person who might have an “in”?

Once you manage to land an interview in a new industry, your work isn’t over. It then becomes essential to show that you are ready, willing, and able to take your acquired knowledge and skills and apply them to a new environment.

You can demonstrate this by framing answers to interview questions in the context of know-how, not industry.

If you’re asked why you want to transition to a different industry, the answer isn’t all the jobs have dried up in financial services. Instead, the health care field is dynamic and full of possibilities. You might also want to mention that you know XYZ Company is a leader in the field.

Transitioning from one industry to another isn’t as difficult as you may think.

With a little preparation, you can position yourself as a professional with a lot to offer employers in a variety of industries–even though you have worked in one field for your entire career.

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