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Changing Industries - Which Industry Is Right for You?

By Beverly Harvey

Whether you're a one-industry career veteran whose industry recently succumbed to economic conditions or an executive who is yearning for a change, due diligence can be the linchpin to a successful transition.


In our current economic environment where companies are trimming staff and budgets to survive, it's imperative that executive candidates have a comprehensive understanding of the industry they would like to transition into and be able to articulate the value they bring to an organization in that industry.

Likewise, if you've been considering a particular industry because it appears appealing from your outside perspective, this exercise in due diligence will be of tremendous value.

Often times job seekers have a romantic notion about a particular industry that is completely unfounded. They may accept a position in that industry and then find themselves blindsided with all types of issues they had never considered and now they're contemplating another transition.

Proper due diligence could have avoided this hiccup in their career.

Personal/Professional Due Diligence Essentials

Conduct an inventory of the value you bring to the table.

List your:

  • Inherent talents
  • Greatest strengths
  • Core competencies
  • Values
  • Interests
  • Career aspirations

List your requirements regarding:

  • Compensation and benefits package
  • Acceptable percentage of travel
  • Acceptable geographic relocation possibilities
  • Self-funded relocation vs. Company-funded
  • Personal / family lifestyle

Determine your preferences for company characteristics:

  • Organizational structure (public or private, for-profit or not-for-profit, venture capital or private equity funded)
  • Growth stage (start-up, early-stage, turnaround, reorganization, high growth, sustaining, declining)
  • Company size (small, mid, large cap - conglomerate subsidiary, independent)
  • Geographics (local, regional, national, global)
  • Growth style (organic, acquisition, partnerships)
  • Corporate environment (pioneering or traditional)
  • Corporate/business value drivers (technology driven, innovation driven, market driven, service driven)
  • Industry position (leader, emerging, pioneering)
  • Business model (business-to-business, business-to-consumer, business-to-government)
  • Product/service types (cpg, industrial, manufacturing, professional services, business process outsouring)
  • Workforce (union/non-union - primarily scientists, engineers, programmers, sales people, consultants)
  • Corporate citizenship stance (environmentally conscious)
  • Regulated/licensed (self, government, governing bodies)

Once you have a clear idea of what types of companies you would like to work for, you can begin your search for an industry.

I suggest creating a decision-making spreadsheet where you can set up all of your requirements in columns. Then as you begin your industry research, you can add rows for each industry you research and note how well each industry aligns with your requirements.

This will allow you to distinguish what industries best align with your criteria. You can also use this spreadsheet decision-making tool to do an analysis of how well specific companies you identify within the industry meet your requirements.

Following are a few resources you can use to research and identify specific industries:

  • NAICS (North American Industry Classification System)
    System used by business and government to classify and measure economic activity in Canada, Mexico and the United States.
  • Hoover's Online
    Hoover's has an Industry Master List with drill down capability to industry trends, industry snapshots, major companies in the industry, associations, organizations, publications, press releases, glossaries, and more.
  • FORTUNE has lists of:
    • Fastest growing industries
    • Most profitable industries
    • Fortune 500 Companies & CEOs
    • Fastest growing companies
    • Most profitable companies

Once you've decided on one or two industries, ask yourself:

  • How does my background parlay into the industry? What are the similarities and differences?
  • What problems have I solved that could be applied to this industry?
  • How can I leverage my skills and experience to gain entry into this industry?
  • Does anyone in my network already work in the industry, or know of someone who does?
  • Are there associations, trade publications, and other resources that can help me get up to speed about the details and trends of the industry quickly?
  • How can I target my resume to this industry and demonstrate the value I can deliver?
  • How can I get in front of the right people in this industry?

With proper due diligence and a little bit of homework, you'll be able to change industries smoothly and with a minimum of unpleasant surprises.

About the author...

Beverly Harvey has been coaching senior-level and C-level executives in job search, career transition and career management for over 20 years. She has helped thousands of executives land their next position quickly. Beverly is the founder of and holds eight certifications in resume writing, branding, job search, career transition and career management. She is a resume expert for six executive job boards; contributor to more than 20 career books. She can be reached at 386-749-3111 or 888-775-0916.