Tips on Job Change To Different Industry
I talked with two very accomplished job seekers this week. Both have MBA’s from prestigious Universities and twenty-five-plus years with Blue-chip companies. Both are accomplished in their fields, having held senior level positions. Both lost their job due to a company-wide reorganization. However, the similarities end there. After a short hiatus, one found a new situation in a smaller, entrepreneurial company. The other is approaching two years in job search. The difference in their results is instructive.
In my last post, I wrote about the hiring criteria for senior managers in a tightening labor market. I wrote that employers looking to fill senior-level roles expect the new hire to have a very short learning curve. They are expected to make an immediate contribution. Adapting to the employer's culture should be the majority of their learning curve, a reasonable expectation.
Keys For A Successful Transition
1. Lead with your Leadership skills
2. Be the Specialist
3. Optimize your Network
Much of my work recently has been placing CFOs with Private Equity Groups' (PEG) portfolio companies. In case you have been disconnected from all economic news for the last decade, PEGs have been reshaping the economy, creating a lot of opportunities. These companies have a defined timetable to divestiture. Their time horizon is relatively short. During their holding periods, they maintain a focus on strategic initiatives to maximize terminal value. They need senior level managers who can help them achieve their goals within the holding period. They seek specialists.
The lack of industry-specific experience is another obstacle facing Baby-boomers in transition. There are many factors in play in this situation; however, this bias is not absolute. To be sure, a transition into some industries is difficult. Job functions like CEO, COO, and senior level marketing positions may require significant industry experience. Hiring a senior manage without relevant industry experience is usually unwise, but not always. Typically, there is somewhat more flexibility regarding specific industry experience for other job functions.
If you want to change industries, focus on your leadership skills. Senior-level jobs are about directing and managing teams, leadership. As a serious job seeker, you will research new industry segments to become familiar with revenue models, customers, and operational
challenges. That work will help nullify a lack of industry experience. However, in competition for any job, you must sell your strengths. As a senior executive, leadership should be your greatest strength. As a candidate for a senior position, focus on accomplishments which required effective leadership, then translate those situations to the needs of the employer.
As an effective leader, you will have developed “street cred,” specialized skills. You did not get to this point without becoming proficient in a particular discipline or activity. In the New Normal, employers are looking for people with specialized skills. For example, some people are great at turnarounds, whereas others may be adept at penetrating new markets. Some executives are good at building new companies where others are skilled at protecting mature brands. If you look back on your career, you will find common threads for your success. Do you have particular strength in re-engineering, business development, or maybe, systems implementation? If so, these are your specialties. Your next step is to build a resume that highlights these skills so as to match the job. Skill sets that are transferrable to other industry segments are highly desirable.
Referring to the two Executives mentioned at the beginning of this article: the difference in their results is due to the quality of their networks. More to the point, the successful job seeker (a CFO type) has a contact that is well-networked into the community. His contact made an introduction to a CEO who needed a CFO. The referral source was highly credible, which led to a positive hiring decision. The other candidate’s networking efforts have not been as successful.
Since most job seekers find employment through networking, managing your network is vital. However, the size of your network is not as important as are high-quality, highly-motivated contacts working on your behalf. They must understand your search strategy to best present your capabilities. Actively manage your network to ensure its effectiveness. Make sure they know how to help you.
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