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Many senior executives stay within their own industries when seeking professional advancement. This can be a solid strategy – however, changing fields also can pay major dividends when it comes to taking your career to the next level.

A recent CEO study showed an increasing number of companies realizing better long-term performance as the result of bringing in top executives from other industries. What has not changed is their desire to find candidates who can hit the ground running. They are not willing to invest months of unproductive time into bringing them up to speed.

Use these tips to translate your current skill set and experience into a new field:

Assess your skills.

The most straightforward approach to your career change may be staying in the same function, but transferring your skills to a new industry.

  • List your accomplishments. Highlight examples, such as project management or the ability to build productivity while reducing headcount, which could readily apply to other fields. Be prepared to tell your success story with quantifiable details.

Identify promising targets.

Define targeted industries that would be a good fit for your personality and leadership.

  • Learn as much as you can about your targets. Deep dive into current industry and business challenges. Familiarize yourself with key players and corporate cultures. Bring yourself up to date on relevant news, developments and issues. Master industry terms and buzzwords. You need to feel comfortable holding up your end of a conversation using insider terminology and expressing an educated opinion.

Define your value.

Demonstrate the unique value you would bring to a senior position in your targeted industry marketplace. Reinforce the relevance of your career accomplishments to date. Emphasize quantifiable achievements using dollar amounts, performance percentage improvements and other specific details.

Cite your differentials for positioning. These are the qualities that make you stand out over others who have industry background. They may include:

  • A fresh perspective to find innovative business solutions.
  • Experience in turnaround, restructuring, acquisitions, mergers or taking a company public.
  • A rainmaker reputation.
  • New contacts and connections.

Expand your network.

Companies will be more willing to hire you if you have been referred by a professional in the same industry who can attest to your potential. Expand your network within your targeted industries.

  • Join organizations where you will make contacts.
  • Attend conferences and trade shows.
  • Consider doing some consulting work before approaching an organization for full-time employment.
  • Polish up your social networking skills. Add relevant LinkedIn contacts. Post references to interesting articles. Serve as a contributor in trade publications.

Get your foot in the door.

Consider these steps if you have been trying to change industries for several months and need a new approach:

  • Taking a step down in title or pay.
  • Volunteering on a board or committee as a way to gain valuable contacts.
  • Focusing on smaller and mid-size companies versus industry behemoths. They may not have the bench strength to fill key roles and therefore be more open to hiring “outsiders.”
  • Preparing for a possibly longer job search.

The executive search consultants at BrainWorks can help you with your next career transition – whether it is within or outside your current industry. Contact us today to launch your confidential search.


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