Thinking about moving to a new industry? Are you mad?

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Some people will tell you the very thought of changing to a new industry is defeatist – a thought bordering on treachery to yourself and others (at worst) or, at best an act downright disloyalty or stupidity. They’ll tell you things like ‘you’re throwing away your career’ or ‘once you leave, you won’t be able to come back’.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

These comments are seemingly of a well meaning ‘devils advocate’ nature –  but, rather than being based on genuine concern for your wellbeing, they are often based on their own need for self-affirmation and insecurity about the industry you both currently work in. That someone sees fit to question your attitude towards something with which they so clearly identify themselves is merely a self-defence mechanism. It’s a similar psychological process to telling someone who has had a few drinks that you don’t want one yourself. They’ll try their best to persuade you.

The reality is that being part of an industry such as oil & gas, mining, automotive  or any sector is not a lifetime commitment. It is as much a matter of personal convenience as the laying off of hundreds or thousands of employees is to any company in these sectors.

When the threat of redundancy looms, the natural thought process is to look for a similar role in a similar organisation. However, when those roles aren’t abundant, it isn’t your duty to wait in line until they are.

What will happen to my career? Good question! You will surprise yourself because you will find that this ‘transferrable skills’ phrase that you’ve heard over the years is a REAL thing. No matter how specialised you think your skills are, you may be astonished as to how quickly you get up to speed in another industry using your existing skills set – and what you will be able to teach your new co-workers. You will ‘take something new to the table’ – a new perspective which other employees in your new company do not have. Should you return to the industry you are contemplating leaving (yes, this can happen), you’ll be taking your new-found skills and awareness back with you.

What will happen to my salary? Depends on the industry and the role you are stepping into. For support services roles such as HR, administration, accounts, supply chain, etc, your salary could stay the same or go either way. Within other roles, you may well experience a dip – but nothing like as catastrophic as you may think (unless you’ve previously been an ex-pat or received a significant location allowance of some kind). It’s possible your salary may dip in the beginning. For example, if you were a team leader or manager previously, it may make sense to contribute as an individual for a while – rather than be the person for people look to for guidance. On the plus side, you may well find that your salary catches up sooner than you think.

Will I need to move towns? This, I can’t answer. Coming from an ‘oil & gas centric’ town such as Aberdeen, were an engineer to look to change industries, the chances are, they would need to move away. That doesn’t mean everyone would need to – just most. In the end, flexibility is key here. Weekly commutes with flexible arrangements such as Fridays working from home are quite commonplace these days and can mean that your family doesn’t need to uproot.

In the end, we will still be torn by the question as to whether to change – and maybe a little fearful. It’s down to gut feel. If your decision to move to a new industry is driven by preference, no problem. If you change your mind, you will find a way back. If your choice is driven by necessity, there is no room for debate – just the fog that goes around it. Is is possible to change industries? Sure? Is it easy? Not always.

In the end, listen to yourself. Only you will know whether you feel making a change like this is right. If you feel that staying is doing you no favours, don’t. Gut feelings borne out over time are rarely wrong.

Can I ever go back? Yes. Employers do not shut out good people that have left an industry and, later, look to come back. Chances are they will ask you about it at interview but that’ll be about as far as it goes. Enlightened companies will view it as a strength which indicates flexibility and someone that, yes, may bring that something new to the table.

What about my CV? Knowing what to include in your CV when changing sectors isn’t easy. Often people rest their faith on a huge list of transferrable skills that sit like a brick wall at the start of their CV. Transferrable skills are great but they don’t tell you how good you are – and they should be told within the context of each position – otherwise they are unquantifiable. They can also be vague and can apply to anyone. You need to provide tangible evidence you are good at what you have done. Without turning your CV into war-and-peace, give real-life achievements and clear, concise examples (things for the reader to make a decision on).

Make your CV relatable. Remember, recruiters, Hr and hiring managers in a sector will have become specialists in that sector. However, there is a very good chance they will not be able to either relate to or understand a CV which names technologies, processes, job titles or companies they are unfamiliar with. They probably won’t spend time researching your background either. If they don’t understand it, the chances are they’ll simply move on to the next applicant.

I want to do this but would like to make sure I have the right tools.   At Petroseam CV Resources, we can help you to prepare a CV not only for your current industry but another which you can use for application for other sectors. We will interview you and use our experience to compose a winning CV and covering letter which is likely to be attractive to recruiters, HR and hiring managers – making sure we use language which recruiters and HR in other sectors can relate to. We will also help you with interview coaching and constructive feedback – meaning you increase your chances of success in interviews.

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