If you’ve reached a point in life where you want to do something different or if you’ve come across an opportunity that seems too good to miss, you may be wondering how you’d fare in another industry. Would you be able to transfer your existing skillset so that you could start at a similar level to the one you’re at now, with a similar salary? There are no guarantees but it’s something that a lot of people manage to do successfully. The key is to begin with a plan.
Repackage your easily transferable skills
Although some types of skill – such as payroll management, negotiation or familiarity with IT systems – are applicable across a range of different industries, they tend to be approached in different ways and given different levels of priority. Adapting to a new industry is partly about understanding how it works, and the best way to do that is to immerse yourself in its culture. Join related social media groups online and try to get yourself invited to social events. People are often excited by an outsider taking an interest in what they do, so this is easier than you might think. You can then adapt your CV to focus on the areas most likely to impress the employers you wish to approach.
Rethink your core skills
Alongside your obviously transportable skills, you may have industry specific skills that don’t seem likely to be much use in a different context – until you think about what they boil down to. If you’ve worked as a sports trainer, for instance, you could have a well-honed ability to get the best out of people that transfers well to any management position. If you’ve worked in a laboratory setting, your logical, organised way of thinking would be well suited to the world of finance. Consider how you can reapply underlying skills like this. You’ll find that in some professions senior executives already have a good understanding of how some skills can be transferred, and will help you to adjust.
The experienced trainee
Most people moving between industries find that they have some need to retrain or improve their knowledge base in the new area. Returning to training after years of being respected for your expertise in your profession can be daunting but you’ll find that it’s not quite the same as it was the first time around. The difference is that you already know how to learn, so you should be able to pick up new skills more quickly, especially if you’ve done research or supervised the training of others as part of your job. You’ll also find it easier to engage because you’ll have a deeper understanding of what new skills are worth than the average trainee does.
A success story
If the challenges of moving between industries sometimes feel insurmountable, it’s worth keeping in mind that other people make a great success of it. Lady Barbara Judge trained as a lawyer and moved into banking and private equity before going on to work in the energy industry, holding senior positions in both. She has since used this diversity of expertise to make shrewd investments in tech companies. Her success stems in large part from her recognition that many of the same underlying skills apply in each of these industries.
The advantages of being an outsider
Why would somebody be willing to take you on if most of your working experience comes from another industry? The answer is that many managers and recruiters recognise the insights that a capable outsider can bring. You’ll be looking at the business from a different perspective and will bring with you a wealth of ideas likely to be lacking among existing personnel. Remember that your background can seem exciting to others just as your new profession seems exciting to you.
The personal benefits of moving between industries
Gaining experience in multiple industries gives you increased security in the event of an economic downturn and makes you better able to adapt to changing circumstances. It also tends to be intellectually satisfying and can lead to you experiencing greater job satisfaction overall. By pushing you out of your comfort zone and forcing you to test yourself, it can give you back some of the vitality you enjoyed in your early career and increase your confidence, helping you to get more out of life in general. You’ll also have the opportunity to meet more people and make more friends.
While some people choose to remain permanently in the new industries to which they’ve moved, others find ways to work across multiple industries on an ongoing basis or develop a niche based around their overlapping knowledge, experience and skills. Whatever you choose to do, your expanded skillset will stand you in good stead.