Using Transferable Skills to Move to a New Industry
Many of you will need to identify transferable skills and then leverage them to move to a new industry. COVID-19 has wreaked its havoc on industries differently. If you work in one of the industries most affected can you wait until it recovers or do you move to a new industry?
Changing industries particularly later in your career is very difficult. I want you to listen to a couple of podcasts where I interviewed people who made these kinds of transitions:
- How to Pivot Industries Using a Blog and a Podcast [Podcast]
- Encore of “Rebranding Yourself with Alexander Buschek” #140
I also want you to read the following posts on this topic:
- Changing Industries to Smart Grid
- How To Demonstrate Expertise When You Have No Experience [Updated]
What you will discover is making this kind of transition is not easy nor is it a straight-line path. However, for many of you, if you want to make it to retirement, this may be one of your few options.
Let me give you a few key steps to making this transition.
Identify Your Transferable Skills
What is a transferable skill?
According to Indeed.com post, Transferable Skills: Definitions and Examples, the definition is as follows:
Transferable skills are any skills you possess that are useful to employers across various jobs and industries. These might include skills like adaptability, organization, teamwork or other qualities employers seek in strong candidates. Transferable skills can be used to position your past experience when applying for a new job—especially if it’s in a different industry.
In this same article they list the following as the most common transferable skills:
- Technology Literacy
Notice that the first 6 skills are soft skills. For most of us who have worked for 30+ years, we depend far more heavily on our soft skills and leave the hard skills to the younger crowd.
Identify both hard and soft skills that you “think” will be valued in a different industry. Notice I say “think” because as you will see later — what you “think” is irrelevant. It is what the hiring managers in the new industry “believe” that is valued.
Which of your transferable skills do you want to move to a new industry?
Identifying a Target Industry
The next step is to identify an industry to target. Notice you will need to select one and only one industry to target. Initially, you will build a list of industries to do your research on.
You will be looking for two things:
- The health of the industry
- Are your transferable skills really desired in the target industry?
The Health of the Industry
Some industries will have to reinvent themselves like tourism. I recommend you read, It’s Time To Rethink The Tourism Industry, as the tourist industry will make significant adjustments even after a vaccine is widely available.
There are other industries like automotive where we really do not know the long term impacts. We might see a permanent decline as people have realized that they can so much more from home. On the other hand, people may shift back to cars to avoid mass transit in major cities. There will likely be a shift to electrifying the auto industry but how fast, which companies will survive, and who might go bankrupt will be the question.
You will also need to consider the geography where you live or want to live to determine the health of the industry in that area. Check out the BLS article, Geographic impact of COVID-19 in BLS surveys by industry which also discusses the level of COVID-19 outbreak in a region as it relates to each industry.
You will have to do your research!
Are Your Transferable Skills Really Desired in the Target Industry?
Let’s say you are a digital marketing executive in the hospitality industry. You may assume that your skills will translate into a lot of different online industries. You may be right but this is not something you can just assume.
This is the time to get on LinkedIn and start doing some keyword searches both targeting companies within your target industry. You want to look for people who look, taste, and smell like you. These are people who have similar background and experience to yourself but work in the target industry. This is the time to ask for AIR – Advice, Insights, and Recommendations.
Have some frank discussions with these people you reach and get their opinions. This means making yourself vulnerable but learning early that some industries do not want to hire older workers, i.e. advertising and technology, will save you time.
There is a double purpose of doing this outreach. First, you want to verify the assumptions you are making and remember making assumptions is really dangerous. When you make assumptions you may be suffering from MSU disorder (MSU – Make Stuff Up).
The second purpose of doing this outreach is to cultivate a network that can help you make the leap. You will not make the move to a new industry all by yourself. You will need help in doing this.
When you complete this step pick one and only one industry to target. Do not muddle your message by trying to spread yourself across multiple industries.
Rebranding Yourself in a New Industry
We are branded in two ways in our career, by our business skills, and by our industry knowledge. In most cases, companies put a value on industry knowledge over the right skills. When you are making a move to a new industry you have to demonstrate both.
You will have to do this by demonstrating industry expertise when you have none.
If you read the posts and listened to the podcast episodes I mentioned at the beginning of the post you will discover both the gentlemen I reference rebranded themselves by producing blogs and podcasts about the industries where they want to move.
This is a key step to this process and you will need to be bold.
I will be writing new and updated posts in the near future on this rebranding step but check out the post Rebranding Your Personal Brand—It is Time?
Combining Your Transferable Skills with Your New Personal Brand
As you heard from Alexander Bushek in the podcast episode he used his blog to get on a panel at a major conference. This allowed him to demonstrate his business skills along with his newly acquired industry knowledge. Alexander’s biggest impediment was himself. He had to be bold and speak out.
Similarly, you heard Daniel Elizalde in his podcast interview on how he used a podcast to combine his product management skills with his new knowledge of IoT (Internet of Things). He interviewed leaders in the industry but he did not just interview them, he added value to the discussion.
The last step is outreach. I would encourage you to reach back out to the people you spoke with in determining the industry. Attend as many real and virtual conferences as possible with the intention to gather as many contacts as possible.
I am in a mastermind group with a gentleman who has developed a platform for online church services. He recently attended an online religious conference and was able to gain the names of many of the attendees. He is now doing outreach to them to see if they will talk to him about issues they are having taking their religious services and putting them online. This is a great way to build relationships in the target industry.
In all of my many career pivots, I have never done it alone. There was always someone who helped me get across the finish line. Often those people are the weakest of your weak ties. These may well be people who are not working in the target industry but know people who do. Here are some examples:
- Financial Advisor
- Hairdresser or Barber
This is not easy but I hope this gives you a framework on how to make this move later in your career. Of course, if you want some help and support in this journey consider joining the Career Pivot Community.
Have you done this before? Let us know in the comments about how you did it.