More than 30 percent of positions advertised on Experteer in the US in the past months were in information technology. This is a significant number, especially considering 21 different industries were surveyed. However, before you hand in your resignation and start trying to make the move to IT, there are some important factors to keep in mind.
Common reasons for an industry change
Thinking about an industry change? No matter what your motivation is, whether you are spurred on by industry growth – or lack thereof, availability of work, compensation, or industry image, the good news is a change is possible. After years of gaining experience in a certain area, as a manager you possess valuable skills, which can potentially be transferred from one industry to another.
Industry popularity comes in waves, depending on which areas are experiencing growth. “I see many people these days wanting to get into tech. Before that it was medical and pharmaceutical, before that banking and finance,” says Jobcerch founder Al Pollard.
However, Mr Pollard recommends considering the values and work environment within a company rather than looking at industry alone. Instead of focusing on a boom industry, look for a company that provides a great working environment. “Industry is not everything. Many people forget that. Just because the industry is not very attractive, they may miss a great opportunity.”
Successfully managing the industry move
So how do you change industries without moving back down the management ladder? Mr Pollard suggests looking to those who have successfully made the change before you. “The greater the divergence between the industry you are in and the one you want to be in, the more relationships matter. The real challenge comes when someone wants to change their industry and job family. For instance if someone has been in sales management in the maintenance, repair and operation industry and they apply for a medical sales management position they are changing industries, but since they are both in sales the disparity between the two is mitigated.”
It is a different situation if a sales manager wants to move into IT management. In this instance, it becomes more difficult to bridge the gap. “I like analogies,” Mr Pollard says. “Look at it like you want to jump from one side of a ditch to another. If the ditch is not very wide you can do it on your own. But as the ditch turns into a culvert, a creek, and then a river, it becomes more difficult.”
This is where you need extra assistance to help you cross. Your education, knowledge, skills and abilities will come in handy here, however, according to Mr Pollard; your most valuable asset is your connections. “One’s network is key to changing industries. Most people make the mistake of thinking their close friends are their best resources, but studies show that loose bonds are better. In a job search it is actually better to know a lot of people a little than a few people very deeply.”
Challenges to changing industries as a manager
One of the biggest challenges facing managers considering an industry change is simply getting noticed. In this case, Mr Pollard likens your chances of successfully securing a position in another industry by applying online to winning the lottery. “I am not saying it can’t happen that way, but your odds are low,” he says. “You need to look at your network, both in real life and virtual.” He also suggests brushing up on your knowledge of industry phrases. “Different industries use different terms. When communicating with people and in your resume you want to use industry specific language.”
It also pays to be aware of the company culture. “If you talk about ‘leveraging human capital’ some companies will bristle at that and think you are an ogre. Others may like how matter of fact you are,” Mr Pollard says.
Furthermore, your soft skills are something that you can take with you across industries and use to your advantage. “Knowledge, skills and abilities are all very important in success, but they can be all trumped by a lack of soft skills,” Mr Pollard says. “Unfortunately soft skills are severely lacking these days. In my opinion that is why we have a disparity in the US of a lot of people dropping out of the job market because they cannot find work, while at the same time companies are not able to fill positions.”
In Mr Pollard’s opinion, self-awareness and perseverance are the most important soft skills any job seeker can have. “Without perseverance people will stop as soon as they hit an obstacle. Many people laud working smarter but sometimes you must work harder. Like the joke of two people being chased by a lion, they don’t need to outrun the lion; they need to outrun each other.”
Convincing hiring managers you are right for the role
So how do you persuade the hiring manager to take a chance on you, over candidates with years of industry experience? Mr Pollard recommends putting in the ground work to build their trust. “The best way is through networking. Look to connect with people who know the hiring managers in the industry you want to work in. You want to connect with the people who are connected to the person you want to know.”
Finally, patient persistence should not be underestimated, when it comes to dealing with hiring managers. Mr Pollard recommends finding a middle ground. “You must stick with it but not annoy them. This is the art of the job search and networking. Much like in dating you must show that you are interested but not be a stalker. Follow them on social media. Find out what they are interested in and look for ways to connect to people in the industry.”
Changing industries as a manager is not something to be taken lightly. However with the right preparation and approach, you will be able to harness your transferable skills and successfully make the move. Staying within your job family and using your networks, as well as marketing your transferable skills are your biggest assets when it comes to changing industries as a manager.