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Making the move: switching industries

20/04/2016
Carla Rodriguez from Fircroft’s Houston office takes a look at what you need to consider if you are thinking of ‘making the move’ and switching industries.

To those whose current industry is no longer a constructive asset toward career growth, the question to switch industries at first glance may seem like an inconceivable trap, but many veteran industry switchers agree that with good planning, a way forward is in fact a possibility.

A helpful perspective at the start of this process of switching industries is to think of the total inventory of a job seeker’s skillset as the product, and a potential company to work with as the consumer. One way to find out how a job seeker can fit their square peg into a round hole is by researching the target industry and the companies that fall under that industry. Researching company competitors, clients, customers, strengths, weaknesses, and their method of strategy is undoubtedly the most important step to a successful switch. Once a job seeker has a good understanding of the industry requirements, writing a comprehensive inventory of current skillsets and then comparing that list to the overall desired product, helps in creating a map for the next steps forward. This is because by researching the target industry and garnering market information, a job seeker can collect a full sense of understanding on how they can best provide value to the new target industry.

As important as it is to keep options open, switching industries, as a quick fix to a short-term problem is not recommended. However, venturing into new industries for the experience and challenge is not detrimental to a career so long as there is sincere patience, dedication, and above all personal growth, to whichever industry is present. Diligently tailoring current skillsets to match a prospective company’s requirements can show a genuine interest in wanting to make the switch.

One option for learning new skills is to research local government or private training programs. For example, the United States Department of Labor awarded a total of $500 million in grants last summer, to support “projects promoting economic growth, by preparing workers for careers in the energy efficiency and renewable industries.” With a quick search for a related course, solar industry courses are available in all regions of the U.S. at varying times of the year. Additionally, Subsea Engineers, most often thought of as a specific career for the Oil and Gas industry, are a necessary asset for the installation and maintenance of infrastructures in the offshore wind power industry. Another search of the Internet leads to a seven-month, technical training program on wind energy system maintenance, available to those wanting to transition into the renewable energy field.

For some, their own career transitions may not need to rely on courses and can benefit simply from due diligence in studying the new industry or networking with those in the field already. HSE Consultant, Ken Margerison, when discussing the variances between safety roles in differing industries advised, “There are certain types of hazards, whether it’s gravity pressure or stored energy; once you know the hazards that are inherit to a piece of equipment or environment, they’re generally the same. It depends on the individual to get an understanding of their environment.” On the other spectrum, for careers that are too specific to a certain industry, a good way for a job seeker to mold their skillsets is to describe their transitional, soft-skills. For example, a career in procurement in the Oil and Gas industry may be a bit specific and hard to transition to another industry, given that the expertise relies on specific commodities. In this case, the best selling point for a procurement candidate is his expertise and track record in buying, selling and management.

Overall, with the right moves, switching industries may be a positive solution to a stagnant situation. In terms of the number of challenges that may be faced, the earlier a job seeker is in his career the easier it may be, but it does not mean switching industries is impossible. Some points to remember before making a move would be that income may vary depending on the industry, and the industry may give a job seeker an income dependent on experience. It’s definitely important to be well informed in the target industry, but also to financially prepare before making a move. To make a successful switch, preparation is key.

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