Finding New Industries for Your Job Skills

If you find that you have skills that are no longer needed in your current industry, you feel discouraged.  The ever-changing employment landscape often leaves people with industry-based skills and no employment market for those skills.  You are not alone, and you do have options.

The first week I worked as a recruiter I received a call from a man who had just lost his job from a reduction in force.  He worked at General Foods in the Jello™ division.   General Foods had merged the Jello™ division with the cereal division and fired half of the sales organization from those two divisions.

The man faced a large challenge, because companies across the food industry were merging divisions and merging with other companies.  However, he was fortunate to get a sales job in the medical industry.  The training at General Foods gave him the skills to sell.  A medical company considered those skills as transferable skills for selling their equipment.

There are challenges to changing industries.  Most people have transferable skills.  However, headhunters, hiring managers, and staffing people often face mountains of resumes.  They are focusing on close fits.  Scrutinizing resumes closely for crossover skills is a challenge for these people.  Also, professional networks lose value for most people seeking to transition into a new industry, because most people build professional networks around people who work in the same industry.

The first challenge is to find companies outside your industry who hire people with your skills.   

  1. Make a list of companies and industries that appeal to you.
  2. Determine if other people at those places have a similar background to your own.
  3. Evaluate the overall experience of these people in terms of other skills and experience that you might have in common.

The second challenge is expanding your network to the new industry.  You will probably find better success in getting an interview if you know the hiring manager and can get your résumé directly into that person’s hands.  Here are some suggestions.

  1. Ask a member of your network to give you an introduction to the hiring manager.
  2. If you can not get an introduction to the hiring manager, attempt to network with that person through the Internet.
  3. Join professional organizations that can give you introductions.
  4. Attend trade shows where you can make new connections.
  5. Backtrack through your network to find people who have transitioned from your current industry to a new industry.
  6. When you do send out your résumé, make sure that it markets your transition skills through highlighting your experience and your other training.
  7. Edit your résumé and interview agenda to highlight your qualifications for each specific company you are seeking to join.

A third challenge is that your skills are just not as strong as those of people already in the industry you are seeking to join.

  1. Strengthen your marketable skills with more training.
  2. Become an expert on the new industry you are seeking to join. Write your cover letter and résumé to show what you know about that industry.
  3. Head back to school to get a diploma, degree, credential, certification, or advanced degree.

Keep your chin up and think positive.  At one point in my career, I called a Procter & Gamble sales manager to introduce myself.  He informed me that I did not need to introduce myself, because he and I had spoken.  A few years earlier, he had called me to get help with his career.  At the time, he was working for a small regional company.  I told him that I would not be able to help him, because I specialized in recruiting sales people who worked for large consumer products companies.   He said that I had mentioned Procter & Gamble specifically.  Continuing to work for the regional company, he got an MBA and then applied at Procter & Gamble, where his career progressed rapidly.

Remember that you are not alone nor unique.   Many people find that they need to consider transitioning to a new industry.   You are not alone in your trials.  If you concentrate on building your network and your skills, you do not have to work alone in your efforts.

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