I reviewed a resume today from a fellow who worked for Delta Airlines. Poor guy, he had been downsized from three different airlines over the years as they went belly up and he had had enough of the airline industry. He was ready to make a change to a different industry. Unfortunately, he was an aircraft mechanic with 20+ years experience and his options were limited. It’s difficult to move from airline to say, healthcare, in one easy jump. In fact, the jump is going to be huge and might have to be taken in small hops rather than one Evel Knievel, ramp-blowing leap.
What can be done to “neutralize” a resume in terms of industry and still have it work well. Truthfully? Not much. The problem that arises is that employers don’t hire potential so much as they hire experience. Hiring managers look for candidates that have the background and experience that matches the requirements for the job for which they are seeking candidates. They will hire for promotion potential (a candidate that is ready for the next step of the career ladder in the same line of work) if the resume shows a good record of accomplishment in the candidate’s work history. It’s rare, though, for a hiring manager to interview a candidate for a position in healthcare, for example, whose entire life’s work up to that point has been in oil and petrochemical.
Hiring managers are generally reluctant to consider candidates that have no industry background because many industries have specific issues, laws, rules, and specialized knowledge that needs to be known by candidates. For example, in healthcare, the HIPAA regulations are specialized laws. In IT and accounting it’s Sarbanes Oxley. In manufacturing, it’s Six Sigma and Lean practices. There is a significant learning curve involved in transitioning to a new industry that employers simply don’t have time to deal with in new hires.
Of course, I’m speaking in generalities so if you are trying to move into a new industry, don’t lose hope. It can be done. It just has to be done strategically. Strategic ventures involve tactical maneuvers. Changing from one industry to the next may mean stepping down the career ladder a rung until you get up to speed on things in the new environment. Taking a lower position is not necessarily a death-knell and in fact, people who do this tend to move up more rapidly thereafter.
There are some industries and careers where changing industries is easier than others. Sales is one career field that is fairly easy to move around from industry to industry. Sales techniques are basically the same whether the person is selling toilet paper or high-end data servers. What varies are the product and the customer.
General business management can be industry-neutral to some degree. A person who understands P&L, cost management, general marketing, etc. can usually transfer those skills to another industry with less learning curve. Human resources also transfers well because the functions are generally the same in all industries.
For a resume to help you jump from one industry to the next, it is very important to show the skills that are needed in the new industry plus the candidate’s knowledge of the challenges and intricacies of that industry. It can be tricky bit of writing and often it’s a good idea to leave it to professionals who know what to look for in work history and how to put that in terms that help bridge the gap.