How Can I Break into a New Industry?

Posted by Michelle McGuire on Mar 1, 2019

Did you know the average American switches jobs 12 times in their lifetime? It’s common to study one thing, do some work in the industry, and then have a revelation about where you actually want to be. I know the feeling. I’m an international development professional turned brand strategy freelancer and graduate student. Wondering how to make your own major industry change? These tips will help build your plan of attack:

1. Spin your current experience

Don’t think of your current industry as setting you back, instead think about how it can set you apart. Start by looking at the types of roles you want to break into and try to draw as many parallels as possible between what you do now and what you want to do. For instance, I found that my experience in stakeholder analysis and project plans easily translated to brand strategy. Being able to spin your current experience will be critical in showing new potential employers you’re prepared to make the leap! Bonus: Your current experience can also help set you apart! Potential employers bring up my international development experience all the time since it’s an interesting conversation topic.

2. Rework your resume 

Now that you’re in the mindset of rethinking your current experience, it’s time to reflect that on your resume. Research job descriptions you’re interested in to get a sense of what they’re looking for. Rework your current resume to add in as many applicable skills from these descriptions as you can. Rewrite how you describe your past roles to highlight what your new industry values most. Before you finish your resume, don’t forget to look at example resumes from professionals in the industry you want to work in, I quickly realized that I needed to change my word document resume to something well designed to break into a creative industry.

3. Start small

Don’t be afraid to start at the bottom. Look for internships or entry-level roles even if you are a few years out of school. I was a 25-year-old intern when I started my switch. While I didn’t exactly love switching from a full-time job to an internship, I can say it was all worth it three years later.

4. Go back to school

There is no better way to accelerate breaking into a new industry than going back to school. You’ll be able to take your industry knowledge to the next level and make connections that’ll solidify your future career path. In fact, many business school students site changing their careers as a main reason they’re pursuing their MBAs. If you’re not quite ready to make the graduate school leap, try looking for Lynda courses or certificate programs to upgrade your skills.

5. Rethink your job search

Changing industries means you’re going to have to work harder to land your next job. Your resume might be looked over because you’re not a conventional choice. Instead of cold applying, focus on updating your LinkedIn Profile and refreshing your networking skills to make connections with industry professionals, they will be able to give you an inside scoop and help you along the way.

No matter how you break into a new industry, remember to be patient. Changing industries can be a long and complicated process. It took me an incredibly overworked summer, networking events, informational interviews, and a lot of trial and error to even start breaking into brand strategy. But coming from someone who has done it, I know you’ll be able to do it too!

Start with a plan

Whether your professional situation has changed, you want to
move up, or you are pondering a new career, creating a solid plan is
essential to building the career and the life you desire.

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