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Growth, change, evolution—those are the words that encapsulate 21st century careers. I don’t know anyone who works for the same company they started at right out of school. In fact, at a recent reunion with my NYU graduating class, I noticed that many had switched fields completely.  How about you?  

It appears that job hopping is the new normal. Career trajectories are no longer linear. They’re full of wonky curves and detours. People—not just millennials—are looking for fit, not just security. That means that we’re not just going from company to company anymore. No, we’re going from department to department, industry to industry, crossing the country and the globe to puzzle out what works best for us.

We help a lot of Executives, and C-level candidates who are midway or even late in their career when they contemplate a shift to a different industry or field of interest. I have to admit that I love our clients at Get Hired Now! ™ who ask the question “what if?”  I think it takes tremendous courage to leave certainty behind and choose a new path.  But then the payoff is also so exhilarating once they have made the change. 

If you’re one of the many looking to make a change, keep reading for tips on how to network your way into a new field.

Put your transferable skills to work

Make a list of your transferable skills. What essentials of what you do right now are transferrable to any job you could possibly have?  

Perhaps you guide five direct reports to knocking out year-end goals? You manage employees effectively, regardless of whether you’re doing it as a non-profit or a Silicon Valley start-up. You email, call, badger, and follow-up your way to meeting project deadlines? Your workplace communication and mediation skills are top-notch. 

Make new connections

Sure, you may never have worked for an organic farm or a clean energy corporation, but that doesn’t mean you have nothing to offer. Try these three ways to make new connections using your current experience:

  • Troubleshoot interpersonal questions. If an acquaintance is having trouble with something, whether it’s a boss or a fussy Access database, chime in with advice pulled from your own experience. Often, details don’t matter as much as you think they do, so don’t worry if your experience A doesn’t match up point-to-point to problem B.
  • Delve into the differences. Strike up conversations that dig into the unique differentiators between job fields or job types. Keep your questions open ended rather than yes-or-no so that you can begin a comfortable dialogue.
  • Ask about resources. A little research goes a long way. Do a little investigating into influencers, books, courses, and professional organizations, then float questions as to which ideas have merit and which memberships are worth the annual fee. New contacts will be impressed by your commitment, and impressed contacts are far more likely to help you go further in your quest for a new gig.

Ask more questions

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know everything, not even about my own field. With technology and markets changing so quickly, how can you? I revel in being a lifelong learner—and I encourage you to make that your motto, too. Honestly, no one likes a know-it-all. Opt, instead, to be curious and eager to learn more.  I believe the art of asking the right questions is a sure way to finding better solutions.  

Sometimes it can be to your advantage to come into a new field with fresh eyes.  You might have better questions, ideas and solutions to problems than the people who have been working in the same area for a long time. The excitement and enthusiasm you bring can also be like a shot of vitamin C to a team that you become a part of.  If you are in a leadership position, create environments where it is not just safe to ask questions, but encouraged.

When you come across a topic, you’re not familiar with, as we all have, I encourage you to be open about the limits of your knowledge. Don’t dismiss those who know more than you do, either; that’s an immature response that will stunt your growth rather than nurture it. Transform deer-in-the-headlight moments into opportunities to learn more, to expand your expertise.  Look for the experts that can answer your questions or help you think through a process.

Broadcast your desire to make the switch

Sure, the web is filled with snark. Still, most people—especially those you know—are kind. They want to pay it forward, and if you’ve been a friend to them, professionally or personally, they’ll want to return the favor. The thing is, you have to let them know you need a hand. Remember, your connections aren’t mind readers. They’re not going to realize that when you subtly post an article on the IT industry that you’re also redirecting your career path. Tell them. Here are three ways you can approach this:

  • Through status updates: Explain how your interests evolved and that you’re looking to bring your skills and experience to a new type of job, company, or field. Be specific about what the ideal opportunity for you would be. Ask your connections explicitly what they can help you with, whether it’s job openings, recruiter recommendations, or search advice.
  • Through email: The key to asking for a favor via email is to be up-front about it. You wouldn’t want to slog through three paragraphs of “here’s what I’ve done the last three years, here’s what I want to do now, oh, and here’s an update on my dog,” right? Well, your connections don’t want to read that either, at least not when you’re going to tack on an “oh, by the way…” request to the end of it. Instead, come out with your ask in the first sentence or two.
  • Through groups: Get out of your comfort zone and speak up. Search for groups outside your current industry or job type using keywords. Now that all LinkedIn groups are private, you’ll have to request membership and wait to be approved. Once you are, though, you’re free to post queries that will be kept private, off of your timeline. This might make feeling out a new field more feasible on a social network.

Ready to pivot? 

It takes tremendous courage to pivot in your career.  There is excitement and fear of the unknown at the same time.  

By realizing that investing in professional career guidance will place you ahead of the game, you make an important step in the right direction.  

Article inspired, partially edited and reposted with permission from author Coach Ron Nash.

At Get Hired Now! ™ we help a lot of Executives, and C-level candidates who are midway or late in their career when they contemplate a shift to a different industry or field of interest. We have developed several time-tested systems and offer step by step guidance with an experienced team of coaches who have also been seasoned professionals in various industries.

Let me know how we might help you.

Michelle Nash