More On Changing Industry Segments.
You probably know that the economy has improved, and that unemployment is down to 3.8%. That is great news! Along with an improved economy, the labor market has tightened. The unemployed and under-employed are going back to work. Additionally, those people who held onto their jobs through the recession and the weak recovery are considering their options. They are beginning to seek career advancement with another employer.
This week I talked with a lady who has experience in the restaurant industry but more recently has worked on the fringe of the industry, in another retail segment. Let’s call her Ann. In fact, her current employer is classified as “non-traditional” by restaurant industry insiders. This segment is not well understood or highly respected by the restaurant industry. Even so, she has responsibility for a major line of business with a dominant regional brand. Her employer is well known in their part of the country but not so much outside the region.
I have written about the difficulty of transitioning one’s career into a different industry. I have found that people have biases about those working in other segments even within the same industry. These biases are interesting as they are seldom fact-based. I advise that the best way to make a successful cross-industry move is to have an important contact networked into that segment. However, there are other issues to consider.
Changing industries is more or less difficult depending on one’s job function and the hiring manager’s personal biases. Yes, hiring managers have biases that affect their decisions, and they aren’t necessarily illegal. Would you believe that a controller with experience in full-service hotels and resorts couldn’t be a successful controller for a small restaurant chain? Well, a few years ago I faced that bias which frustrated me. Recently, I failed to get a candidate in front of a client because he has worked in non-food retail for the past two years. It did not matter that my candidate had a total of 15 years of leadership experience in the restaurant segment. Two years outside the restaurant industry knocked him out of contention. Seriously?
Moving into a different industry segment is also subject to the company’s culture. Some employers are open to hiring people with the right skill set even if their recent experience has not been in the same industry segment. Other companies are more rigid in this requirement. The target company’s position in its life cycle is also relevant. Typically, leaders and managers are best suited to one or two life cycle stages, but not all. Entrepreneurial managers skilled in start-ups are usually gone by the time the brand reaches maturity. Managers who are successful working with mature brands are probably not viable in a turnaround. Making a career move to a different industry segment can be complicated.
Back to Ann. She has a good job with a broad responsibility and a comfortable salary. However, she sees no path to a viable long-term career. After five years, she has decided to explore other options. She wants to make a transition on her terms, i.e., to keep her current job until she has landed the next. Her ideal strategy would be to look for a situation in the QSR or Quick Casual segments with an equal or greater level of responsibility. Her job search plan needs a public relations component to address segment bias.
My counsel is to craft a document that explains the business she manages in detail. She must help hiring-managers bridge the gap between their preconceptions and the facts for her industry segment. A document that presents the size and scope of her responsibility could change some opinions. This information can be incorporated into her resume and possibly into a cover letter. My thinking, however, is that the ideal product will read like a press release. The point is to address objections right up front.
As much as the entire economy is changing and the employment dynamic is tightening, one would think that hiring managers would be “tuned into” the need to adapt. One would think that employers would face additional pressure to check their biases and develop a more productive perspective. Well, maybe not yet. Some people will learn this lesson the hard way.
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