What to Focus on When Changing Industries

change-direction-feetOne of the great challenges of searching for a job is that people looking for candidates, including most recruiters, will screen out people without industry experience. One would think there’d be more cross-pollination between industries since so many skills are clearly transferrable.

The skills ARE transferrable, but it’s an easy filter to simply look at candidates who already have industry experience.

You’ve got to connect the dots for them…because they won’t do it for you.


You can’t count on recruiters to see your potential. Recruiters are paid to provide candidates who meet the search specifications. One of the things that is not typically on their requirements list is “someone from another industry.” The recruiter isn’t paid to make the case for why you can make the switch to another industry. Their requirements checklist from the hiring company includes “industry experience” so you are not an option.


It’s unlikely for the typical executive to be “found” for a move to another industry, and equally unlikely to be selected when applying. This means your chances are much better when networking your way into a company, bypassing the screeners, both humans and computers, so that you can make your case. It will certainly help that you have a person vouching for you whom you both know and trust.

Who to Target

Target smaller companies for this move and preferably ones with a similar focus as the industry you’re coming from. Also, look at high-growth industries. Those industries are usually more open to change and have a greater need for talent.


Make sure you’re prepared! Obviously, you need to study up on the industry you’re looking to move into, along with the individual companies you interview with, but you also need to walk into interviews armed with how you are equipped for this role in this industry. This is more complicated than the preparation you’ve done in the past and typically requires a career coach to guide you through it.

What we do at ExecuNet when we work with executives is focus on the value proposition that’s the common denominator between your industry and other industries and control the narrative by focusing on that.

The goal is to know what you can make happen and find a company that needs to find someone who can do that. It’s not the industry that matters. Industry is just packaging of the skill, the place where it operates. Think of it like baseball. It doesn’t matter which uniform you wear; you should still hit, catch, and throw the ball at the same level. Or, sticking with sports, soccer players have had great success as kickers in the NFL…because they have a highly developed ability to kick a ball.

Taking this to the business world, if an executive is experienced in a tight margin environment, we help that person develop a value story around that skill. With that Value Story in place, the executive could then look for opportunities in many different industries, and counter any “lack of industry” concerns with a redirect to the tight margin environment accomplishments necessary in the industry he’s coming from and the industry the employer is in.

Would you like some help changing industries?

William Flamme

William Flamme

William Flamme is ExecuNet's Associate Director of Content Marketing, where he develops engaging job search, career path, and leadership insight to build ExecuNet's brand recognition as the leader in senior-level executive job search and all matters career.

He delivers executive-level content across the various properties under the ExecuNet brand, amplifying the power of ExecuNet's expert voices and shaping the content strategy.

Prior to joining ExecuNet in 2008, Will earned a master's degree in education and taught fifth grade and sixth grade. As a teacher, he deepened his appreciation for the written word and mastered skills necessary for managing writers who sometimes view deadlines as homework. It is his training as an educator which allows Will to take complex ideas and make them simple for busy executives to understand and to execute.

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