How to get a job in a new industry with no experience

If you are among the millions of people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic, you may also be in doubt about whether your company – or even your industry – will rebound. It may be time for you to consider whether you should switch your job search to a new, more promising sector. But how do you capture the interest of a prospective employer when you have no experience to incorporate into your resume? You may have a greater chance of success than you think if you approach your search from a different perspective.

Consider what transferrable skills you have. Take a look at job descriptions in the industry you want to target and identify the skills and qualifications they are they seeking. Visit professional associations and conduct informational interviews to gather additional information about the industry and positions within it. Then identify what you can offer and see how things line up. “Start by looking at every aspect of your work experience, including day-to-day responsibilities, projects in which you played a part, and various tasks you handled,” advises Nancy Halverson, MRINetwork VP, Global Operations. “Then break down the steps involved and identify the combination of skills that each required. And finally, compare your list of skills to the list of desired skills and see where there’s overlap. Those are your transferable skills.”

Hone in on industries that are hiring now. If your employer furloughed you or you were already in the midst of a job search when the coronavirus arrived in the U.S., you’ll want to shift gears and focus on those industries and employers that are able to continue to actively hire.  According to the Huffington Post, “industries that are meeting the demands of the pandemic, including retail, delivery, military, taxes, remote learning and health care are actively hiring.”

Look into interim employment. Companies are often reluctant to hire a full-time worker in a brand new industry in which the employee has no experience. But they may be much more open to the idea of bringing you on board on an interim basis. Reach out to a company that works with companies offering interim jobs in the field that interests you. Let them know you’re open to any interim or contract work that becomes available. Once you get your foot in the door, you can make connections and start learning the skills that should enable you to find a job in your chosen industry. 

Understand negotiations could be trickier. As recently as a few months ago, candidates were in a strong position to negotiate salary and benefits, but that favorable job market has shifted, reports the Washington Post. With less hiring going on and more people in the active job search pool, a greater number of applicants are competing for fewer jobs. Employers may feel that they can get skilled applicants without paying top-tier salaries. “But if you’re realistic,” advises the article, “and do your research on average industry standards for the position in the region and how these industries have fared through the COVID-19 crisis, you’ll be better equipped to negotiate fair compensation for everyone involved.”

Despite the uncertainties ahead, this is a good time to think about where you want to be in the future, says Halverson. “Take a hard look at what you truly like to do. Perhaps you have sales in your background but don’t love sales.  This is the time to be honest with yourself and get into a career you love,” she says. “The passion, energy and credibility to flip to a new industry are much more likely to come through on something you love rather than merely tolerate.”

And remember that you lost your job because of a pandemic beyond your control, not because of a failure on your part. It is critical that you remain confident and recognize your worth.