How to transition your career into a new industry

In times when more and more people are quitting their regular jobs to follow something they truly care about, people are increasingly approaching me with the question: how can I transition my career from one industry into another? Is this possible at all?

Yes it is, but the better you prepare, the higher the chances that it will be a successful transition.

9 things to remember when transitioning your career into a new industry

So what things do you need to pay attention to, in order to make a successful transition?

1. Have a clear vision of your target industry

First of all, you need to be crystal clear about where you want to transition your career. Is it a new industry, is it the same industry but a different function, or is it working for yourself?

A lot of things you need to work out below are based on this point. The better you know where you are heading, the easier it will be to figure out the next steps to take.

2. Know why you want to transition

A career transition is often more difficult than just a regular job change. Thus your will or desire to transition needs to be stronger. I call it having a "compelling why".

Are you transitioning in order to earn more money or to have more freedom? Or are you doing it to contribute more to society, or because it fits your talents or passions better?

These are different whys. What is YOUR why? Have it clearly written down and every time you start to doubt go back to your reason why. That will give you the strength to continue on the right path.

3. Check the employment market

Once you are clear on the "what" and the "why", you need to check what is available on the jobs market before you go any further.

The easiest way is of course to search the internet, check LinkedIn, different job boards and view company sites to assess what is available.

Make sure to not only visit local recruitment fairs but also industry events. Check the industry associations and magazines for more information.

4. Be clear what talents, skills, experience and knowledge you need to develop

Once you know enough about what is out there, gather a couple of job ads and make a detailed analysis.

Imagine two icebergs. One iceberg is the work you currently have and the second one is your future, desired work. Both icebergs consist of the same building blocks.

Above the water line you have so called visible aspects, these are your daily responsibilities but also how you present them on your CV and LinkedIn. This is what others can see.

Below the water line you have the elements that are necessary for you to perform the job: talents, skills, knowledge and experience. Now analyse both jobs and think what elements they have in common and what is different.

The next step is to assess the gap between the two jobs. The bigger the gap the more difficult it will be, of course, to transition your career, but at least you can prepare yourself for that.

Consider also very carefully what are the common areas; these are often related to your talents and the skills. The common elements are your basis to building a bridge between the two careers.

Imagine that you are changing your career from the automotive industry to coaching. You obviously do not (yet) have the required knowledge (studies) and experience (working with coaching clients) but you might have the talents (empathy) and skills (active listening) in order to perform the job.

5. Build a network of people who already are doing the job you want

In this step you need to reach out to people who already have the job you want. Make sure that you spend enough time with them to ask all the burning questions you have.

Also be aware that what for you is your dream career does not always need to be the dream job for the person doing it, so make sure to put a filter on it.

6. Connect with people who also transitioned their career

It is also important to connect with people who have already made the transition. Why? They know what it takes, can give you advice and motivate you to go for it.

I often hear from my clients, and know from my own experience, that your own friends are not always very supportive of your transition. So you need to surround yourself with positive people who went through the same process.

7. Prepare your transition plan

Once you have gathered all the information you need, it is time to make a transition plan. First assess how much time and money will be necessary for you to put your plan in action from where you are now to having a new, desired job.

When I was transitioning my career I first needed to complete studies, start a new company etc.

Check also if it is possible to start your new job already on the side and grow into it smoothly. With some jobs, especially when you are starting your own company, it can be done. With other, more corporate jobs it can be difficult. Be sure to consider all the options.

8. Rewrite your CV and LinkedIn profile to fit your new career

At a certain point you also need your CV and LinkedIn profile to reflect not only what you are doing at the moment but also what your future career is about.

This is an exciting, and sometimes difficult, moment since you will start announcing your new interest to the outside world, but it will also finally make it concrete!

9. Take action!

If you want to be successful you must take action. The more you act, the quicker you will get where you want to go.

Good luck! Let me know if you have any questions, and feel free to share your own career transition story to inspire others.

Dorota Klop-Sowinska


Dorota Klop-Sowinska

Official Member of Forbes Coaches Council. I specialize in international career and expat coaching. I am the author of the book Career Jump! How to Successfully Change Your Professional Path...

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