In a difficult job market, you may find yourself needing to consider job openings that wouldn’t be on your radar during normal times.
While all businesses are affected by the pandemic in some way, a few industries have been more negatively impacted than others. Many companies in retail, travel, media, higher education and leisure have instituted hiring freezes, furloughs or layoffs. This leaves fewer options for displaced employees to focus their job searches on the industries that they know best.
If you are looking for a job right now, it may be worth considering how your current experience can be applied in a different industry. Though not easy to do, changing industries (even if temporarily) will expand your options and make your skills more marketable in the long run.
But to be successful in your job search, you’ll have to learn how to target the right opportunities and best highlight what you have to offer. Here are three tips that will help you bring your current skills into a new environment.
1. Look for a 70% match with the job description
Even in a bad economy, applying to jobs you aren’t qualified for is counterproductive; it distracts you from higher-yield activities and subjects you to unnecessary rejection that hurts your confidence.
But it’s not easy to know exactly where the line is between qualified and not qualified. Many companies post a lengthy list of desired skills but would hire someone that met most but not all of their needs, while other companies have a checklist of requirements that is set in stone. Some jobs are so niche that you could not possibly do them without prior industry experience.
This leaves you debating between aggressively applying to any open job you see, even if it’s a poor match to your previous experience, and endlessly waiting for jobs in your current industry to open up again.
The best approach lies somewhere in between these two tactics. There will be jobs in other industries that can immediately use your transferable skills, such as leadership, data analysis, project management or customer service, but you’ll have to demonstrate a fairly close connection between your capabilities and their unique needs. Otherwise, it may not be worth the effort spent on applying for the role.
Study position descriptions closely to determine if there is at least a 70% match between the job requirements and your skills. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it can be helpful to keep this percentage in mind to use as a guideline to assess if a job lead has potential.
There may be one or two minor things in the job posting that you are missing, but for the most part it should be clear from the description if your background is compelling and relevant. By narrowing in on these quality leads you’ll have the energy to tailor your approach for each job opening, which will produce better results.
2. Customize your résumé to match industry norms
You should have a standard version of your résumé that you use for networking, but always tweak it further before applying to a specific job. People learn a lot of things over the course of a career and it can be hard for recruiters to see where your skills match up to their needs if you don’t highlight the most relevant parts of your experience.
It’s especially important to revise your résumé before applying to a job in a new industry. Often, you’ll need to alter the way you describe your experiences because your current wording may be laced with buzzwords specific to your previous field.
As a first step, thoroughly check the company’s job posting for any key words or phrases that may need to be incorporated into how you describe your skills. Work to match the language used in the posting as much as possible because this will help you align with the company’s expectations.
While it’s important to keep the chronological information about your employment, make sure you are also highlighting the leadership, functional or operational skills that are transferable into this new setting. Consider adding a short summary of your experience to the beginning of your résumé and reworking the bullet points under each job.
Finally, if possible, have your résumé reviewed by at least one person from the type of company you are targeting before sending it to recruiters or hiring managers. Résumé norms can vary by industry and you want to make sure you’ll be sending a format the company is used to seeing. For example, candidates in industries such as healthcare, nonprofit, government, or industrial goods tend to use fairly traditional designs in their résumés. It is not common to see the colors, fancy fonts or unique design elements that might be normal on a résumé for a job in media or advertising. In industries such as higher education, résumés tend to be a lot longer than corporate résumés. Many recruiters at technology companies prefer a slightly shorter résumé. These are the kind of norms that you want to uncover before you apply to different jobs.
Don’t be afraid to ask for direct and honest feedback on both the content and the format of your résumé. These small adjustments can go a long way in helping recruiters see that you are indeed qualified and would fit into their industry.
3. Be prepared to explain your motivation
No company wants to hire employees that see their job as little more than a paycheck. Employers are hoping to find people that are highly engaged and who will see value in the work they are doing.
It is understandable that the major reason many people are looking to change industries right now is because they simply need to maintain their livelihood. There is no shame in that approach; in fact, it’s a smart one.
However, it will hurt your search if money is the only thing you hope to gain from changing industries. Without a secondary motivation, you are more likely to unconsciously convey a lack of passion or appear to be less ambitious if you fail to inquire about longer-term business priorities and potential career growth during your interviews.
So before you even start applying for jobs in a new industry, ask yourself what you hope to learn and why this change would be good for your career. When you identify a particular role that interests you, ask yourself if you believe in this company’s mission. One if not all of these questions should help you uncover an additional reason why you want to make this change.
Expect to be asked to share your motivation for applying throughout the interview process. Recruiters and hiring managers will try to confirm that you truly want and will be happy in the job they are offering. If your motivations are genuine, it will come across to them. Don’t worry about giving the perfect, memorized answers and instead focus your attention on building genuine interest in the company and position.
For many reasons, job searches are difficult right now and changing industries adds a layer of complexity. But if you stay committed to your search and open to unexpected opportunities, you may look back on this time one day and see it as a pivotal and important moment in your career.