Our Experts | Donna Grigonisdonna

I graduated college in 2010 just after the Recession and it was a tough time to find work. Along with the inherent economic challenges of the time, I had little idea what I wanted to do with my life. After some soul searching and a lengthy job search, I finally landed a job in real estate development.

I fell in love with my job, but over time I began to feel I might be pigeonholing myself into a career I stumbled on for the rest of my life — all without being exposed to other industries. I loved what I was doing, but wondered what additional opportunities may exist.

It’s daunting to transition to a new line of work, especially when you consider hiring managers receive floods of applications from newly minted graduates. Hiring managers look for ways to narrow their search and one method is common: cut applicants who clearly lack experience in a field. However, the labor market has undergone seismic and fundamental shifts. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that nearly half of employees laid off in 2010 now work in different industries than they lost their job in.

I made a decision to actively seek new opportunities and learned as much as I could to make the switch to staffing and recruitment. Today I’m happily employed in the field. The switch was a process, but not impossible. Here are five tips to making a switch to a new industry:

  1. Make a list of the reasons you want to change industries. Often, people who desire to make a career change have a people problem in their current job, rather than a skills and responsibilities problem. If feelings about a coworker or boss are motivating you to leave, first see if it can be worked out. Plenty of research shows senior managers change positions every two years on average, so one option would be to simply wait out the situation (and hope your next boss will be an improvement from your current one).
  2. Research potential employers. Research is important in any job hunt, but when you’re trying to enter a new field, research can make or break you. Learn everything possible about industry trends and the companies where you apply. Think about the business challenges employers face and how you could add value. Have a clear concept of where your talents and expertise would fit, then carefully craft each résumé and cover letter to specifically emphasize why they need you.
  3. Network in your chosen industry. Tap your network on LinkedIn and elsewhere, using social and digital tools as a strategy. For example, my roommate worked as a recruiter, so I asked her numerous questions about her job. When I was on job sites and was contacted by recruiters for real estate positions, I asked them all how they found me, how they performed their job day-to-day jobs and a myriad of other questions. I spoke to any recruiter at length, and even other employees who had worked with recruiters to gather as much information as possible. I used my personal network and interviewed with my roommate’s company, who referred me to the company that I work for today.
  4. Learn how to transfer your skills. Look at the skills you already have on your résumé and the projects you’ve completed in your current industry. Think about where these can be transferred into the new industry. Re-word your résumé to fit the position you are applying for, and make sure that industry-specific terms are translated to align with the new industry. Skills you learn in one job can be put to use elsewhere. So even if you feel unqualified for a position, you’re probably much more prepared for it than you think.
  5. Stay enthusiastic. My final piece of advice is to show enthusiasm and stamina. Don’t get discouraged or apprehensive during your job hunt. Show hiring managers you are genuinely excited to make a change and are optimistic about the work that needs done. Positivity and energy go a long way; interviewers will love to see your excitement for the position. With any luck, your optimism will be contagious. Good luck!
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