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Pivot Your Skills To A New Industry In Six Steps

Written by: Lorraine Rise, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Many job seekers are curious about breaking into a new industry. What does it take? How do I get noticed? This is a common goal among professionals who like the skill set they’re using, but feel bored, maxed out, or even pigeonholed. For example, you might be a sales professional interested in changing from healthcare sales to tech sales. Or you may be a project manager in telecom who’s looking for a project management role in software. These types of industry transitions are what I call “career pivots” that often take two to three months to achieve. These are quite different from full career changes, which are more time- and resource-intensive.

A female sitting on sofa with laptop and notes working at living room.

Here are six specific strategies for entering a new industry:

1. Focus On Transferrable Skills

What knowledge and skills have you amassed that would be relevant in the new industry? Examples of highly transferable skills include project management, business development, relationship building, leadership skills, and writing and communication. Be specific as you identify how these skills could be useful in your new role. Don’t forget to emphasize your soft skills as well such as communication, adaptability, and more. You will need to provide examples of this in an interview, so think of times you have demonstrated those skills and why they would be valuable to a new type of customer or employer.

2. Do Your Research

It’s important to identify the nuances of this new industry: what matters most to its customers, vendors, and employers? Are there different laws or compliance regulations that you’ll need to know? Do they have a different way of doing business? Is there a new software system you’ll need to learn? You can do a fair amount of research online and read industry blogs and journals to learn about trends, issues, and opportunities in the new industry.

3. Network, Network, Network

Networking is critical to breaking into the hidden job market, and also changing careers. If you hope to break into an industry in which you have no experience, you’ll need to make connections and network your way in. Doing online research won’t be enough. Reach out and do some informational interviews. Ask people inside (or outside) of your network who work in your targeted industry what it’s like working in that industry, what pertinent trends you should be aware of, and what advice they have for you in breaking into it. There’s nothing more valuable than getting advice from people who’ve already made the career pivot that you want to make!

They can offer tips on what to change on your resume or recommend other people you should speak to. They can tell you what blogs and journals you should be reading. They can give you incredible insights into what matters most in that industry, and what employers are looking for in their new hires. You might even find someone willing to serve as a mentor, which would provide exceptional insight.

Before you can have these conversations, you need to identify who to contact. First, look within your own network and see if you know anyone who works in that industry, even if they're doing a different type of job. If you need to reach outside of your network and make some new connections, LinkedIn is great for this. Yes, you can reach out to strangers! The response rate won't be as high, but that's okay. If you get at least one good conversation from it and learn something for your career, that's a success. Set a goal to identify at least three people who work in the new field, whether you know them or not.

4. Uplevel Your Skills

You've already identified your skills in Step No1. Now, identify the skills that you will need for this new industry, and come up with a plan to bridge the gap and obtain them. This is also something you can ask your network (Step No3) about: What new skills will you need, and how you can obtain them.

While you probably won’t need a new degree, you might need some short-term certifications. Luckily, online learning has never been easier. There are lots of websites out there like Coursera and Udemy. Depending on the new industry, you might need to get a formal certification, such as a project management certification, or to attend a coding boot camp.

You might also consider joining a professional association for that new industry. I’ve been a member of the Society for Human Resources Management for many years, and I’ve gotten a lot of value from it, including professional development and education.

5. Revise Your Resume

Think of your resume as a strategic marketing document instead of a list of everything you've done in your career. It's okay to leave off jobs that are not as relevant to your new career direction. You should focus primarily on the top half of the first page of your resume, which is the most-read section. Make sure the headline and key skills that you showcase are the most relevant one to the new industry.

Also, when you bullet your responsibilities for each position, make sure the first bullet point is your strongest. You want to emphasize the accomplishments or experiences that are most relevant to your new industry. It might be a good idea to show your resume to someone who's done hiring in that industry to get their feedback. If you're not comfortable writing about yourself, consider asking someone to help you write your resume. Getting an outside perspective can help you better identify your accomplishments.

6. Be Flexible

When you're making a career pivot or change, sometimes taking a step down in pay or title is necessary, so be flexible. I did this when I left retail management many years ago to obtain a corporate position within human resources. The first step for me was shifting from a salaried manager position back to being an hourly employee – but I was thrilled to do this because I was gaining great experience that would help me forge a new path. You may need to be flexible and accept a lower title or salary to make the change you want.

Breaking into a new industry takes a bit of work, but by following these six steps, you can make a successful and fulfilling transition.

Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Lorraine Rise, Exeutive Contributor Brainz Magazine

From her very first job out of college, Lorraine has built her career on the practice of coaching others to succeed. Lorraine and her team at Career UpRising have served over 400 clients in dozens of industries, both public and private. Many Career UpRising clients come from some of the most recognizable firms in the country including Microsoft, Amazon, Fannie Mae, Coca-Cola, IBM and more.



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