Changing Industries: 6 Tips for Project Managers Seeking to Jump Into Another Sector
During the pandemic, about one in five professionals considered a career change, according to a
Washington Post-Schar School Poll
So you're not alone if you are considering making a change to your profession. Maybe you
discovered you had a talent for marketing or that you want to hone your skills in IT management,
either way, it's possible to switch from one industry to another.
Fortunately, the project management skillset can be applied to many other industries. Still,
it may be challenging to seamlessly change from one sector to the other, whether due to getting
the experience you need or an ever-changing job market. But, it doesn't have to be. To
successfully switch to another sector, you need a sound strategy. The tips below can help
you put together a path to finding a new industry that resonates with you.
See What Skills You Already Have
So, you've already discovered that you want to make a change and have identified a new sector
and want to make the shift. However, the reality may have hit that you may not have the skills
this new industry may require for your role. Well, there's good news! You may already have some
skills and experience that are transferable.
Let's say that you want to switch to managing more technical projects like software
development or engineering. A move like this may seem daunting if you come from a completely
different field like education or general administration.
However, don't forget to consider all your experience. You may find that some skills can be
used in this other industry. For example, you may already know some coding languages, or you
just took a leadership training class that will enable you to handle the management side of
these projects more effectively.
The temptation will be there for you to automatically focus on what you don't have. But
flip the script and instead, look at the skills you already possess because you may be
surprised to find out you have more experience and skills in this new area than you thought you did.
Identify the Skills You Need
Now that you've discovered what you have, you can begin to see what you don't. An efficient
way to start this process is by looking at job descriptions related to project management
jobs in that new sector. Gather at least three to five and start circling or highlighting
the skills that you see come up across each of them. These are likely the areas that you
want to focus your attention on.
Also, reach out to your network to see if anyone can introduce you to someone who is a
project manager in the sector you want to be in. You can conduct an informational interview
with them to get more details about the skills and experience you need. If you don't have
anyone in your network that can introduce you, don't hesitate to use LinkedIn. You may be
able to find someone you're already connected to or come across a professional who would
be willing to speak with you.
Decide on Necessary Training
You know what you have and what you don't. Now, it's time to identify ways to increase
your skills in critical areas. Depending on the job, there are many ways you can do this.
Some positions may require specific certifications, while others may cause you to consider
enrolling in a college or university course.
Again, this is where networking with others in your field will come in handy. Ask them
how they landed at their current job and how they gained their experience. You may find
that many didn't have to get a degree through a higher education institution.
Some may have attended workshops, volunteered in their new desired field, or learned on
the job. Speaking to various professionals about the path to their careers will give you
an idea of what you need to do to make the switch.
Consider Freelancing or Interning
Sometimes, finding a job in a new field can be a challenge. You're competing with
people who may already have experience in this area, and it can be hard to convince
employers to consider your candidacy without relevant experience.
Nevertheless, while it may be hard to get an employer to commit to a full-time position,
it may be easier to get a solopreneur or small business owner to bring you on as a freelancer.
From 2017 to 2020, the number of freelancers rose by almost two million,
according to Statista.
So, there is no shortage of opportunities to give this medium a try. Also, consider interning
for a company.
Business owners benefit since they don't have to deal with the typical hiring costs,
and you get a chance to get some tangible experience in your new field. You may also
get enough experience where the business owner hires you full-time.
If you aren't able to freelance or intern, you may still be able to get some hands-on
experience by volunteering. Do you know of a local charity that needs project management
expertise in an area that's relevant to your new industry? If so, reach out to them to
see if you can help, as this move can provide some great hands-on experience.
See If You Can Shadow a Colleague
If you're currently employed, see if your company has a department related to your new
industry. If they do, they may have project managers working in that department. Speak
with your manager about your interest in this area and see if you can shadow a colleague
who is doing the work you want to do.
Also, see if there's an opportunity for you to work on a low-stakes task or project in
your preferred sector. Doing this may open the door for you to explore more opportunities
to work in your new field or even pursue a position within the company.
Learn as Much as You Can About the Industry
As you work to step into this new industry, it's best to take on the attributes of a
sponge. You want to learn as much as you can about this new sector. This can look like
searching for updates on industry news, signing up to get industry newsletters, attending
conferences, and joining professional associations.
Also, books are a great way to determine who the thought leaders are in the field,
so it may not hurt to take a visit to your local library or give Amazon a visit to
find and read industry-related books.
Social media will also be an effective way to keep your ear to the ground and quickly
hear about changing trends
Get That Resume and LinkedIn Profile Updated
Once you've skilled-up, gotten any necessary certifications, and received some experience,
it's time to ensure that your resume and LinkedIn profile represent your new career aspirations.
Try to find a resume writing professional familiar with your new industry and career
status (ex. early, mid or late), as they can better customize your resume to appeal to
hiring managers in your new desired field.
Also, LinkedIn is an exceptional career tool, so use it to find online groups related
to your new career and even locate jobs in your field. Lastly, make sure your LinkedIn
profile is complete, as comprehensive profiles are
71% more likely to receive interviews
Switching Sectors Isn't Impossible…it Just Takes Some Strategy
Job changes are common. According to BLS data, the median number of years workers stayed
with their employer was 4.1 years as of 2020. However, moving around may feel more
challenging if you want to stay in the same position but change sectors.
There are new skill requirements and expectations. Fortunately, we live in a time where
it's as easy as ever to locate online courses, network with others, and freelance to get
experience. Again, project management is a discipline that is valuable to many industries
and sectors. And with the right skill set, you can move around and find the industry that suits you.
Employee Tenure Summary,
July 6-21, 2021, Washington Post-Schar School national and D.C. region poll,
Number of people freelancing in U.S. 2014-2020,
Job Applicants With a ‘Comprehensive’ LinkedIn Profile 71% More Likely to Get Interviews, Study Says,