When to Leave Your Industry

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Not everybody stays in a single industry throughout his or her career. And while changing industries becomes more difficult the longer you spend specializing, it can still be a great career move for some people. If you’re wondering whether it’s a good time to change industries, consider the following questions:

Is your industry shrinking?

When an industry collapses, job opportunities in it can become extremely sparse, and switching industries may offer you the best chance at a rewarding position. Take a hard look at the future of your field and decide whether you want to be there in 10 or 15 years.

Are your skills general or specific?

Not every job is specific to an industry. Salespeople, for instance, develop skills that can be put into play in a variety of fields. Keep in mind, however, that you may need to deploy your skills differently in a new career, and be prepared to demonstrate to potential employers that your settling-in period will be brief and productive.

Would it be better to take a small step?

Sometimes it’s easier to change specialties within a field rather than to leave it entirely. You might move from sales to marketing, or from portfolio analysis to compliance. The change in duties might rejuvenate your enthusiasm and your prospects without requiring you to start from scratch in terms of experience.

Do you have or can you build a network to help you?

Contacts in your new field can help make transitioning between industries much easier. Look at your network and see if you know anyone who could help you by giving you an honest estimation of your strengths and weaknesses or who might be willing to connect you with someone for an informational interview or a day of job shadowing.

Do you have applicable nonprofessional experience? Volunteer experience can sometimes take the place of professional experience on a resume. If, for example, you’ve spent the last few years editing the newsletter for a local nonprofit, you may be able to turn that experience into an opportunity in the publishing or nonprofit industries, even if you currently work in a completely unrelated field.

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