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Nicole Martin
New Jersey
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How to Switch Industries

Between going to business school for my graduate degree and exploring the blogosphere, I feel like more and more people are doing complete 180’s when it comes to their careers.  In grad school, a lot of my classmates had two goals: to earn their MBA and to land a job in a completely new industry.  Talk about pressure!  Within the blogging world, I’ve read back stories of those who utilized their blogs to start new careers and even some who have made blogging their main source of income.  I admire everyone just mentioned because it is certainly not easy to make a huge career switch.  But, it’s definitely possible!

In some aspects, I too am an industry switcher.  I am not sure if I’ve ever mentioned it in this venue, but as an undergrad, I majored in chemistry… and now I work in Human Resources.  Yup.  I made that switch right after graduation with zero planning and a whole lot of accidental luck.  But even after being in my first job for a couple years, my chemistry degree still haunted me during job interviews, so I figured out how to strategically get that next job.  Here is what I have learned and observed:

Educate Yourself:  This starts with learning about the new industry that you are interested in… from a distance, making that leap seems like the best decision you’ll ever make!  And maybe it is, but make sure you understand the work at all levels, from good to bad.  If everything is still telling you full steam ahead, then start to educate yourself in the more traditional sense.  Not only will this help you actually do the work in your new field, but it will give you credibility when you start applying for jobs.  Depending on your situation, this step might mean going back to school for another degree or certification.  Or, you might be able to get away with attending conferences and/or self-educating through a lot of reading.

Get Experience:  Next you have to prove that you can actually perform well in this new industry.  Think about getting experience in a part-time side job, by volunteering, or even by taking on special projects at work.  During my first job out of undergrad, I volunteered to be a part of the HR Employee Satisfaction Team.  Even though I was a compensation specialist at the time, this team gave me experience and insight necessary to become a generalist later on.  Don’t forget to leverage the experience you already have… most soft skills will transfer and some technical skills will too.  Also, as I mentioned above, starting a blog can both educate you and get you experience at the same time.

Network, Network, Network:  Finally, utilize every corner of your existing network, and then work to expand it.  You never know who knows a guy in your goal industry, or who knows a recruiter who can find you a new job.  Keep in mind that networking means fostering relationships… people may not be inclined to help someone who does not show that they are passionate or willing to work/learn.  So be sure to build a repore with others first, and then you’ll have a better chance of getting referrals or even someone throwing your name out there when a job opens up.

Questions on your particular situation?  Or, have you made an industry switch yourself?  I’d love to hear from you!  Please comment or send me an e-mail  :)

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