How to Change Industries When You Don’t Have Experience

Finding a new job requires work, even when you have a wealth of experience to decorate your resume. Finding a new job in an industry in which you don’t have experience can be even more challenging. 

Rest assured, however, that you’re not alone in the process. In fact, studies show that people change careers all the time. The average baby boomer changed jobs 12x in their lifetime, according to a 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) survey. Meanwhile, 21% of millennials—who make up the bulk of today’s job force—have changed jobs within the last year, according to a recent Gallup report. A LinkedIn study finds that they actually jump jobs 4x in their first decade out of college, often dipping their toes in different industries.

How to Switch Careers

People change careers for a whole host of reasons. Whatever the case, here are 5 simple steps to landing a job in a new industry without experience. 

1. Ask yourself about your motivation to make moves.

Ask yourself whether you actually want to change careers or if, perhaps, you just don’t feel fulfilled in your particular job. Maybe you’re working for a company that doesn’t challenge you. Or maybe you’re on a team that doesn’t inspire you.  

If you think you may just need a job change within your industry (or even within your company), consider exploring those options first. Have a conversation with your manager about the potential of taking on other projects that may help you exercise and develop other skills. Talk to your human resources department about internal opportunities that’ll give you the chance to work with other teams within the company. Or look for similar job openings at companies that impress you. 

If you decide that you are indeed ready to change industries, be confident in taking that chance.

2. Consider other industries based on your skills, interests and personality.

Before diving into a new industry, make sure that it’s an industry you actually want to explore. It may be helpful to make a list of the skills and qualities you have, as well as to think about your interests, so you can better determine what industries will bring you the most satisfaction and success—whatever that looks like to you. 

If you need some assistance, Teal’s free Work Styles quiz will help you determine your workplace persona via a series of simple questions that take just a few minutes to answer. You’ll get an instant score to help you tailor your job search.

In fact, there’s a gamut of free career quizzes out there like the U.S. Department of Labor’s My Next Move’s O*Net Profiler and the MAPP Career Assessment. There are also some paid-for tests you may consider like The John Holland’s SDS (Self-Directed Search) test, which is based on John Holland’s career theory that delineates six personality types: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising and conventional. Other personality quizzes like the Myers Briggs Personality Test and 16 Personalities may also be helpful in getting to know yourself better. Some companies even ask candidates to take these tests in order to help determine their fit within the company culture.

The point is take some time for introspection so you make an educated decision about your next move.

3. Get the industry experience you can.

Sure, getting a job without having had jobs is a catch-22; you need experience to get experience. But just because you don’t have industry-specific job experience doesn’t mean that you can’t get industry experience in other ways.

Get a flavor for the industry by enrolling in a course to learn the necessary skills. Go back to school to obtain a certificate, a degree or other necessary credentials. Find a mentor willing to give you a shot at helping out for the experience.

You may even choose to take a later-in-life internship or an entry-level job. And, if you’re worried about your lack of experience to even land one of those, leverage the transferable skills you already have, as many skills are applicable across a host of industries. Besides, capitalizing on your well-rounded knowledge base can be the difference that sets you apart from your competition.

4. Set realistic expectations and plan for change.

Understand that change isn’t necessarily a smooth process.

Yes, you can get a job in a new industry, but it’s unlikely that it won’t affect your pay or seniority. So plan for this change—mentally, emotionally, and financially. You may choose to take a part-time job to get your feet wet in the industry before diving in headfirst—or to offset the financial loss of changing industries. You may even choose to start a separate savings account to cushion you while you navigate this career change with the risk of little to no income.

You’ll also have to be both patient and persistent in your job hunt. Landing a job in a new industry may take some time. Be realistic, and be kind to yourself in the process.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need or want.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Whether you reach out to an industry professional for an informational interview or hire a career coach to help you determine a plan of action, you don’t need to navigate this career change alone.

You also shouldn’t be afraid to go for what you want if you find a job that interests you. Sure, you might get a rejection (or a lot of rejections). But you’ll certainly never get a yes if you don’t ask in the first place.

A Hewlett Packard internal report suggests that many women, in particular, don’t apply for jobs unless they’re 100 percent qualified and meet the exact requirements (and years of experience) on the job description. In fact, both men (41 percent) and women (46 percent) alike, say that their top reason for not applying for a job is assuming that the company wouldn’t hire them since they don’t meet the qualifications.

Have the confidence to apply anyway. Tailor your resume to mirror the language on the job description, and take the time to create a compelling cover letter that convinces hiring managers that you’re capable. Use your unique, nonlinear background as a selling point.

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Dave Fano

Dave Fano

Founder and CEO of Teal, Dave is a serial entrepreneur with 20+ years of experience building products & services to help people leverage technology and achieve more with less.

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