People are often inspired to change sectors (think finance to FMCG) while staying in the same industry (say, as a technology professional). But breaking into a whole new sector can be harder and take longer than you imagine. Here are some tips to hone your approach and prepare you for the journey ahead.
1. Ask Yourself, “Why Do I Want to Do This?”
People’s reasons for moving sectors vary wildly. For every IT professional out there looking to maximize their earning potential in the investment banking space, there’s an investment banker looking to “give something back” in a charity sector role. Neither conviction is more logical, honorable or straightforward than the other, as each person’s history and motivation are going to be unique and variable. The key is to be committed, passionate, positive and focused about moving sectors, since the process takes time and effort, and you’ll need to prove your drive and vision to several different stakeholders along your journey before securing that dream role.
2. Be Clean on What You're Selling
Many candidates – particularly IT professionals – may be able to do their job well, but aren’t good at selling themselves, whether that’s in their résumé or at interview. If you’re passionate about moving sectors, you’ll need to find a way to convince an employer that your 15 years of manufacturing experience is more relevant than the few hundred résumés they’ve seen from candidates who are already working in the relevant sector. How do you do this? You need to find an angle.
3. Market Yourself
For technology professionals who are more "software agnostic," the process of moving sectors can be trickier, but it’s still possible to find an angle. Some sectors are more readily transferrable – such as FMCG to retail – but otherwise, you might need to paint a vivid picture of the conceptual bridge to bring the employer with you. You could emphasize the vendors, customers and partners you’ve worked with in your career, which is often a strong draw for a manager who wants the lowdown on vendors and competitors. Another tactic is to include a testimonial at the end of your résumé from someone in your target sector (you don’t need to mention that you play Dungeons and Dragons with him every Wednesday night!). Finding an angle is simply about relevance. You’re making clear connections between where you’ve been and where you’d like to go.
4. Get Help – From the Right People
If you’re fortunate – and your stars miraculously align – moving sectors could happen right away for you. But for most, it can be a lonely battle, and finding allies will help. To be successful, you’ll need to cover all the angles in your network – former employers, friends, fellow alumni, LinkedIn contacts, job boards and recruitment agencies. Allies can offer intel about what’s going on in the field and identify opportunities for you to follow up. A recruitment agency can sell the relevant and salient points of your résumé to an employer who may not otherwise have considered someone of your background. But be sure to team up with the right agency that genuinely wants to help you in your goal of moving sectors, rather than an agency that places you in front of the very next IT opportunity they need to fill. Be discerning and focused on your goal.
This is a process of strategy and perseverance, not sheer luck. Even with the best tactics and preparation up your sleeve, it could take time, effort, set-backs and even a slight shift in your initial goal to get to where you want. But moving sectors is possible with the right combination of perseverance, patience and vision.
For more tips on breaking into a new sector, find out here how to make a career change.