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I’m Not Sure how to Change Industries in a Volatile Job Market?


Dear Aelyn,

I’ve known for a while that I want to make a major career change. Specifically, I’m looking to enter a new industry. During the “great resignation”, I was feeling really confident that I would be able to make the switch since employers were struggling to hire. I spent a few months taking online courses to brush up on industry knowledge and reworking my resume and cover letter. I’m finally ready to job search, but I’m now second guessing myself since the job market has totally shifted.

How can I change industries in a volatile job market?


You’re right. The job market is very volatile right now, but that doesn’t mean you need to put your goals on hold. There is no wrong time to make a career switch, there just may be harder times to make the switch. All you can do is keep pushing forward and be patient. Let’s take a closer look at how to change industries in a volatile job market, because it is doable.

Get to Know Your Transferable Skills

Some employers have a strong preference for industry knowledge, but many don’t care what industry you came from, as long as you can bring the right skills with you. These are known as transferable skills. 

What exactly is a transferable skill? This is a skill that you utilize in one role that you can bring with you to another role even if you don’t have direct experience in that specific role or industry. For example, let’s say you’re a journalist, but you want to switch to a career in public relations. You have experience writing eye-catching copy and headlines that grab attention. Every day publicists aim to do the same thing, but in the inbox of the press outlets they’re pitching instead of the front page of a newspaper. 

Similarly, a career in operations may have helped you build the organizational skills necessary to thrive in a project management role. The data analytics skills you gained as a social media marketer can translate into market research. Think critically about your top skills and how they could come in handy in your new industry or role. 

Rework Your Resume and Cover Letter

It sounds like you already gave your resume and cover letter a makeover, but circle back there to see if you can highlight any of your transferable skills. Don’t be afraid to spell things out here. You can say exactly what skills you gained during your career and how they will help you succeed in the new role you’re applying for (it’s best to customize your cover letter for every role you’re applying for). You can’t be as explicit in your resume about what your skills can do for them (you should include your transferable skills there though), so use your cover letter to show you’re confident your skills will help you make this transition successfully. 

Use Downtime for Education and Skill Development

We’re not going to lie and say your job search will be speedy right now. Whether or not the job market is in a good place, making a major career change can take time. You should continuously apply for new opportunities, but when you’re waiting to hear back, you can keep doing the work that will make you a stronger applicant. You can learn new skills and can brush up on industry knowledge. Even if you never worked in a specific industry, being up to date on the latest best practices, challenges, and developments that industry faces will really make you stand out in your application and interviews.

If you are lacking certain skills required for the new industry or roles you’re applying for, now is the perfect time to brush up on them. Ask your manager at your current job if you can take on new responsibilities. Volunteer for a charity in the industry you want to work in. Pursue a professional certification. Do what you need to do to round out your resume, even if it happens outside of work hours. 

Build a New Network

If you want to jump over to a new industry, you will want to shift your network. Right now, the bulk of your network is probably working in your current industry. That’s fine and you may already have some connections in the industry you want to work in, but now is the time to really get to know the players in your chosen industry. Here’s a few ways you can expand your network strategically.

  • Follow thought leaders on LinkedIn. Look for the social media influencers in your industry (yes, every industry has them) and see who is posting the most on LinkedIn. Not only is reading their content a great way to get up to speed on what’s happening in that industry, but you can get to know the other professionals who engage with their content. Look at who frequently comments on these types of posts and engage with them. Eventually, you’ll start to make friends in the right places. 
  • Attend industry events. A $1,000 conference may not be the best place to start if you’re not even working in that industry yet. Start small and look for free or inexpensive industry events to attend (like the happy hours that happen the night before a conference). Attend as many of these events as you can so you can make new connections and can gain expert insight into what you need to do to enter the new-to-you industry.
  • Request informational interviews. While you’re waiting for an actual job interview, you can request informational interviews. Find people on LinkedIn working in your chosen industry and role and ask them if they would be willing to participate in an informational interview. This type of interview does not lead to a job opportunity, so don’t think about asking for one. Instead, you use that time to interview them about their career. You can ask to learn what they do at their job, how their industry works, and how they got to where they are. You can make your intentions of switching to their industry known and as an added bonus, they may choose to connect you to a hiring manager one day. In the meantime, focus on the wealth of knowledge they stand to offer you. 

Making a career transition to a new industry is exciting. To help you get ready for that transition, we suggest you enroll in Leveling Up Your Career. Our deep career dive is going to share our best career tips for finding your passion, perfecting your personal brand, mastering the art of the job search, finding success once you land that dream job, and making major career moves—all of which can help you change industries in a volatile job market. 

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