You will get more interviews in a industry where your whole application spells out that you have the right level of expertise to be effective. if you are considering a move to a new industry, we have a number of suggestions on how you can actually identify such industries.


The more you appear to know about an industry, the easier it is to generate interviews. Virtually all employers look for "common ground" when hiring a new executive. For example, do you have experience in or knowledge of similar product lines, distribution channels, manufacturing methods or problems of their industry? There can be other similarities. Consider the scope of operations, the role of advertising and promotion, the importance of the field sales organization, the influence of labor, and other related items.

The harder it is to demonstrate knowledge of an industry, the less likely an executive is to make a move into it. That rule applies to all major disciplines: sales, marketing, finance, manufacturing and operations. It is less important in staff disciplines such as data processing, law and human resources. Here are examples of industry changes that are commonplace.

Acquire Some Basic Industry Knowledge and Improve Your Credibility

If you have no knowledge of an industry but have an interest in exploring situations, extra steps are recommended. The easiest way to acquire knowledge of a new industry is to read trade publications. They will bring you up-to-date on many personnel changes, new products, information on specific companies and the biggest challenges as seen by industry leaders.

Another way is to talk with executives already in the field. In some cases you can go further by getting more formal input, attending trade shows and the like.

You Can Capitalize on Your Leverage Power, Versatility and Ability to Contribute

As you consider new industries, be sure not to overlook your leverage power. Here we are referring to the added benefits you may bring, by virtue of your contacts or knowledge.

You may be able to bring a complete team with you who helped you "turn around" a similar situation. Perhaps you control major accounts who would switch their business. Or, it's possible you have cut millions from overhead before and know exactly how you would do it again.

The fact is, nearly every capable executive can work in a different function. For example, one that is either broader or narrower... although in some way associated with a past position.

Most professionals never identify all the ways they can be of value to employers. Every one of us, however, is multifaceted. The trick is to stop thinking only of those things for which you had direct responsibility.

Be sure to communicate the scope of your knowledge and potential. Sales executives, for instance, usually know quite a bit about marketing, human resources and distribution. Manufacturing executives often know a great deal about administration, finance and general management. A controller may often have a grasp of every aspect of his business.

When you are discussing the requirements for a position, it will be important for you to distinguish between arbitrary requirements and those which really relate directly to results.

Arbitrary requirements include degrees, length of time in positions, previous titles or specific industry experience. However, as already pointed out, the final hiring decision usually has little to do with specifications. If you can present yourself convincingly as being able to produce results, you will likely get the job.

There are thousands more examples, and at all income levels. If you believe you can produce direct results in a given company or situation, be sure you lay claim to it.

Industry Changing Is Easier if You Are Moving to a Smaller Firm

If you are switching industries, you will find that generally speaking, more opportunities emerge in the small and mid-sized companies than in the large ones.

For every large corporation, there are dozens of smaller companies. More importantly, the smaller companies don't have layers of management waiting to fill available opportunities. Also, in the smaller companies, executives tend to be less specialized. It becomes possible for you to fill a more versatile role.

In large corporations, on the other hand, your ability to influence management is counteracted by policies, regulations, precedents and the existence of executives who might be dissatisfied if you came aboard. This is not to say that large corporations should be ignored. Nevertheless, executives changing industries will find that there are more opportunities in the smaller firms.

Summary Commentary for Those Changing Industries

During the last decade we've witnessed declines for a succession of industries. However, don't overlook opportunities in troubled industries. Executives who have worked for firms under pressure often find they can be valuable to distributors or consulting firms. Those who have been in competitive battles can function as veterans in any industry.

If you are part of an industry which is suffering a decline, then you will want to adopt a broad view of your options. The more you understand the dynamics of a market, the more you can spot potential opportunities. Transition is obviously more difficult, but still quite possible.

Historically, executives tend to overrate the barriers and to underrate their own abilities to make contributions in new areas in a relatively short time frame. It is, of course, up to you to take the initiative to learn something about new companies, new industries, and the problems and opportunities they face. As you review potential industries of interest, remember that while glamorous high-tech and service businesses receive 90% of the publicity today, many executives will find far more opportunities in industries which are considered low-tech or non-glamorous by today's standards.

This field can be as diverse as bottled water, wholesale fish, landscape contracting, automotive services, parking lots, or dozens of others that don't sound exciting but are where many others have built fine careers. Experience has shown that executives who take the initiative and who think imaginatively about the application of their own talents usually find far fewer barriers than they imagined.

Through our system anyone can find information about any industry that they might wish to pursue.

Review SIC Codes for New Industry Ideas

If you are thinking of changing industries, use the list of SIC codes to make note of some that interest you. Remember, you can identify firms to contact in each industry... and in any location you prefer. Some research sources organize information by Standard Industry Classification (SIC) codes. Here's how to use those sources.

If you are interested in construction, for example, you need to know that 15 is the code for the general building contractor industry. The two digit 15 represents the broad industry classification; the three digit designation of 152 corresponds to "housing and residential buildings"; and the four digit 1522 designates "residential buildings except houses." The more digits you designate (up to four), the more focused your subject will be. Listed below are three ways to find an SIC code. Refer to the "Industries by SIC" list. Work your way through the classification system to determine code(s) of interest.

Look up a specific company in a research book such as Dun and Bradstreet's Million Dollar Directory. Listed with the company will be one or more SIC codes, which can then be used to identify other companies in the same industries.

Start by looking up the broad industry category you're interested in.