Career Column: Switching Industries

Nov 25, 2002

Dave Opton

Executive career advice from Dave Opton, founder of ExecuNet.

Dear Dave:

The industry I'm in is shrinking and very limited in terms of attractive career growth opportunities. Because my resume features 19 years in this industry, I feel my options are limited. Any advice or guidance in switching industries in mid-career stream would be helpful.




Switching from one industry to another can be challenging to say the least. Based on survey data ExecuNet collects from members on this subject, approximately one in five candidates is successful.

More executive career advice
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Reference Checking By Recruiters: Should you give a recruiter references early in the search process?

The Recruiter's Role In Negotiations: Always remember who the recruiter represents.

Tips On Videoconference Interviewing: There are tricks to handling a video interview.

Making this change is difficult for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that when employers engage a search firm to fill an executive-level position, the three most important criteria they seek in candidates are:

1. Leadership skills;
2. Industry-specific experience; and
3. Functional expertise.

However, I do not want to discourage your goal of making an industry change. It is not impossible, but you have to recognize at the onset of your job search that making a switch is a more difficult sell as potential employers will need to overcome their concern around your lack of industry experience.

To help make an industry switch, focus on building your network in the industry you want to enter. Join organizations where you are likely to meet industry contacts, attend conferences and trade shows, and read industry trade publications to become more aware of the challenges and opportunities in the industry.

The information you uncover through these efforts will help you position yourself as a candidate who understands the business problems of an organization in your targeted industry. It's this knowledge that separates successful candidates from the field. Hope this is helpful to you,


Dave Opton is CEO and founder of ExecuNet, an online career services center for executives. Questions can be sent to Dave at, he can't answer each individually but look for yours in an upcoming column.


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