For most of us, our career paths don’t go in a single straight line. Instead, there are plenty of twists and turns along the way—some expected and others surprising and unplanned—as we develop, grow, and change over time.
Sometimes a change in jobs also means a change in industries, which, for many, can be a scary and anxiety-filled proposition—especially if the change isn’t exactly what you were hoping and is instead the result of a job loss or shifts in your current field. The truth is, the prospect of “starting over” in a new career field can be daunting, especially if you’re fairly established and far along in your current field and are worried that you’ll have to completely start over again—but it doesn’t have to be.
The “not-so-secret” secret to successfully navigating an industry change during the course of your career is to take full advantage of your transferable skills—those finely-honed abilities that you’ve acquired thus far in your professional experience that you can put to good use in the next industry you work for. Yes, it’s true—many of the skills you currently have are not just helpful at your current job and industry, but rather can help you be effective and successful in your future endeavors as well.
Transferring and leveraging these transferable skills from one industry to the next is the key to being flexible and malleable in today’s rapidly evolving and volatile job market—and those who are able to competently do so stand the best chance of staying afloat. Consider using the following strategies to make sure that the skills you’ve built up during your career continue to serve you well as you move from one industry to another.
Identify your skills
This shouldn’t be a major challenge for you, as it’s something you’d inevitably have to do if you were updating your resume or simply looking to transition to a new job in your current industry. This should include skills both large and small—you never fully know what abilities will come in handy when you start a new job, especially if it’s in a completely new field or industry. These include both hard skills (things like knowledge of computers or specific programs or instrumentation, an ability to speak a foreign language, any professional certifications you’ve earned, and basically any other measurable and quantifiable talent that you’ve developed) as well as soft skills (more subjective and harder to measure abilities that you possess but that come in handy at work all the time, such as people skills, motivation, leadership, patience, flexibility, and problem-solving). Both your hard skills and soft skills can potentially come in handy in a new industry.
Identify the needs of your target industry
Next step is to pinpoint the industry that you’re hoping to move into and do your homework to identify its needs. Research carefully and get a good sense of the successes and pain points in the field and where things are likely to move. Look at the opinions of industry veterans and thought leaders—many of whom are likely leveraging social media to share their ideas. An even better potential strategy would be to identify specific companies in the industry that you’d like to work at and get a sense of their needs—which will help you paint a clear picture of how you can come aboard and be a potentially valuable asset.
Make the connection
Now that you have a clear idea of the abilities you bring to the table and what the needs of your target industry are, you can begin to identify the skills you possess that are potentially transferable. Use the information you’ve been gathering in your research to hone and refine your skills to best suit your new industry. For hard skills like computer knowledge or mastery of specific equipment, see if the tools you’ve learned are commonly used; if not, see if learning popular industry software and equipment makes sense for you. Soft skills are more easily transferable and are more malleable and adaptable to new fields.
Here’s the bottom line—make the most of the skills you currently possess to meet the needs of the industry you’re looking to move into, fill in the gaps where appropriate and realistic, and be confident that you’re doing all you can to make this transition as successful as possible.