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How to switch industries in a job search

08.24.09   |   Job Search & Career   |   Amanda Musto, Marketing Manager at Treeline Incorporated

As a child, we are constantly asked by teachers and parents "what do you want to be when you grow up?"  Back in the day you may have said that you wanted to be a famous athlete or astronaut.  What I highly doubt you said at the age of 8 is that you wanted to be an ERP Software Sales Rep or that you wanted to sell medical devices.  However, at this point in our career, we may know that is the path that we want to take.  But how do you get there if you're not in that industry right now?  We know that making an industry change can be difficult. So what do you do? How do you convince a hiring manager that you are the perfect fit for a sales role that you have never had experience in? How do you move into a new industry without taking a step back?

One of the first things that every professional needs to realize is that switching industries in this economy can prove to be extremely difficult.  In a time where companies are trying to rebuild their organizations, they will be looking to hire talented professionals from their direct space who will come with industry knowledge and perhaps a book of business.  Many companies may not be able to afford hiring a candidate from another space due to the time, money and resources it takes to train and ramp up a new hire.  We know that when you decide it is time to make a change, the best offers will come from the industry that you have the most expertise in.  So as you can see, it will prove to be a difficult move, but not an impossible one.  In order to switch industries and continue to build your career in today's economy, you need to have a game plan.  Where should you start?


  • Think about the industry that you want to be in and do some research!

Before you set your target on a certain industry, make sure you do your homework!  Check your gut and find out what you are really passionate about.  What are you moving towards or want to get away from.  You do not want to find yourself in a new industry facing the same challenges as the one you just left.  You have to ask yourself what you are looking for.  Write down what you need and the requirements for the job you want.   I would also include skills and abilities that are valuable outside of work.


  • Present vs. Future

Realize where you are in your career and what you're looking to accomplish.  Not only do you want to satisfy the things that you are looking to change now, but you should also take into account what you are looking to do in 3-5 years? Do you have a career plan?  Is the opportunity you're currently looking at going to help you reach your ultimate goal?


  • Leverage your strengths and transferable skills.

Once you have found the industry that you're looking to break into, you want to focus on the skills you have that can be leveraged.   The resume you have is filled with words that only the people in your current industry understand, so refocus your verbiage to reflect the buzz words from their industy. Highlight what would make sense and focus on skills that can be utilized in order to make a transition.  Showcase your past experiences, responsibilities and success that are relevant to the job you want.  For an example, if you are trying to break into an outside role you do not want to highlight your inside experience.  A sales manager is looking for 2 things, culture and most importantly can you do their job.


  • Have a positive attitude!

You need to have confidence in yourself and walk the fine line between confidence and cockiness.  Show the hiring manager that you have the intangibles that cannot be taught!  You have to fight for the opportunity you want because at the end of the day, good opportunities do not come to you. You have to know what you want and how are you going to get it.   Remember, take charge of your career and be your own CEO!!  

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