The Great “Catch-22” Facing Job Seekers Pursuing a Career Transition

Today’s job seekers looking to transition into a new field face the greatest of all Catch-22s imaginable… how can one obtain the experience needed to successfully transition into a new field, when people in that industry won’t hire you without prior experience in the industry?
While the challenge facing career transitioners may seem insurmountable, it is NOT. Conducting an effective career transition into a new vocation is a manageable task, ASSUMING you approach it with the right plan. The first thing one must do is conduct a complete self-assessment to identify your strongest skills that are TRANSFERRABLE.

Transferable skills are the talents that you have acquired in past jobs that can help an employer AND can be utilized in a number of industries, environments, or jobs. Experiences like volunteer work, hobbies, sports, previous jobs, college coursework, or even your experience living through significant life events provide such transferrable skills.

Ask yourself what your core competencies are. These are the skills that you are strongest at. Some examples of core competencies might include: customer service, retail sales, direct marketing, project management, foreign languages, bookkeeping, fundraising, etc.
Any skill is transferable; the trick is showing employers how these skills of yours apply to the job you are pursuing in this new industry and how your competencies are useful to them in one or more of the following three ways: 1) help them to increase revenues; 2) reduce profits; or 3) improve their operational efficiencies.

Another way to transition into an industry you do not possess experience in, is to approach your job search as if you are selling a product called “YOU.” Using this approach will enable you to understand your product “features and benefits” and learn how to market these selling points of your background to employers. Some of your features and benefits include: your education, continuing education coursework, training programs, certifications, language proficiency, cultural diversity, the time you spent working, living and/or studying abroad, awards and recognition you received, your special leadership qualities, and experience managing others, your community engagement earned through your volunteer work, etc.

Research the industries you are interested in breaking into from top to bottom. There is a wealth of information on most companies especially if they are publicly traded. Some excellent resources for company background information include: Hoovers, the Securities and Exchange Commission Edgar database of annual and quarterly financial statement filings (, the public records database, (for industrial and manufacturing firms), Dun & Bradstreet, The Motley Fool, etc.

Of all the strategies available to those seeking a career transition, none is more powerful potentially rewarding as the informational interview. The informational interview is a way to meet people who are either doing what you want to do in a specific job in that new industry, people you know through your network who work in the industry, or someone that manages a Department that you might want to work in within an organization in this new industry.

During your informational interview, you want to learn how they got their start in that industry, what they love most about their jobs, what industry associations do they belong to, what publications to they read, what events do they attend, what special training or classes they have taken etc. It is important to note that the informational interview is NOT an interview. You are not asking for a job. However, you can and should ask if they know one or two people they can suggest for you t o talk to.

It is NOT impossible to break into a field that you do not have experience in. Like any truly rewarding venture, it takes a strategic plan, hard work and perseverance, and a willingness to embrace strategies you might not be comfortable doing.