Career Steps: How to change sector

Adam Ryan / May 8, 2017

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Most people are fairly relaxed about changing jobs. But what about leaving not just your employer but your industry? As anyone with a few years’ professional experience will attest, it is not always easy to move from one sector to another even when you feel that you have covered all of the responsibilities in the job description.

 

Why might I want to change sectors?

Most people don’t start their career after school/college with a clear plan of where they are going, and after a few years working it’s easy to find yourself stuck in an area that’s no longer of interest.

Or, for certain sectors, geography is important, it’s common for professionals to move away from their home City / County after college and spend a number of years developing stellar careers in a specific area but find themselves unable to return home as the opportunities in the relevant sector are just not there.

Ultimately, we spend more of our waking hours in work than anything else and to feel trapped in a sector (or location) that’s wrong for you can be quite distressing.

 

Why is this?

Clearly in operational roles, the skills required in certain sectors are very specific and do not transfer elsewhere (you wouldn’t let a plumber wire your house would you?). But it is also often the case that the business support functions (IT / Finance etc) can be just as intransigent and the reasons why are often less clear (a set of accounts is just a set of accounts right?).

A common reason for this intransigence is that as your career develops so (hopefully) does your salary, but when changing sectors your new employer might not value your experience as much putting you in competition with less experienced ‘cheaper’ staff.

Other reasons might include:

  • Regulation: Some sectors (FS in particular) are highly regulated which affects all facets of their operation including the support functions.
  • Change: Other sectors (FMCG in particular) operate in dynamic markets with fluctuating costs and tight margins requiring fast adapting support functions.
  • Complexity: Certain industries (such FS / Tech) deal in intangible products / services that are particularly complicated and need to be dealt with in specific, deliberate fashion.

All of these things affect the culture within a specific sector and can take time to adapt to for those coming from outside making increasing employers reluctance to hire.

 

So, how do I go about changing sectors?

Depending on the sector and your role within it there a number of things you can do to facilitate that move, such as:

  • Study: If there are particular qualification relevant to your target sector, go away and get them, this demonstrates a desire to potential employers.
  • Look for a stepping stone: If you have the qualifications for the job but can’t get over the sector experience then it can help to move into an interim sector to get where you are trying to go (e.g. for accountants, a move into practice working with the right sector clients, or, look for a SSC in your current sector with a view to moving to the relevant SSC thereafter – SSCs tend to hire freely from each other regardless of sector).
  • Do what others won’t: Some roles that are harder to fill than others and employers are more flexible on the candidate background (in finance an example of this is an internal audit, especially if there’s a lot of travel). Look for these roles with a view to segueing into your dream job down the line.
  • Finally, be persistent: It is far from impossible to change sectors regardless of the number of years you have developed it just might make time and effort and a lot of networking into the relevant area. As is often the case, who you know can outweigh what you know.

On a final note, connecting with a recruiter who specialises in the area you are wishing to move to is important. They will be able to offer you valuable advice and educate you on opportunities available in your chosen sector.  Changing jobs and sectors is not an easy road but it is possible, it will just take some planning and perseverance but you will get here.

If changing career is something you are considering you can contact me for a confidential discussion – Adam Ryan  on +353 1 661 0444 or aryan@lincoln.ie

 

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