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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Changing Jobs

3 Ways to Make a Name for Yourself in a New Industry

self introduction

You’ve lost that loving feeling with your career.

Maybe you’ve accomplished everything you set out to do in your position and the luster is no longer there, or maybe you’ve always dreamed of doing something drastically different with your life.

In any case, you don’t feel engaged with or challenged by your work anymore, and you’re getting dangerously close to saying, “I’m just here so I won’t get fired.”

You’re also way too young to retire, so perhaps it’s time to finally make that leap into a new industry. But the job search is a big undertaking, and when you’re not a “known commodity” in your desired space, it can feel near impossible. So, what do you do?

A reader from Florida asked me this question, and after giving it some thought, I’ve come up with three steps toward making a name for yourself in a brand new industry. Before you even think about browsing position openings, it’s time to get smart, get social, and get seen.

1. Get Smart

Your first step toward making this transition is to make time in your schedule to do homework on the industry that interests you. Diving headfirst into research can be overwhelming, though, so start by making categories of what you want to find. Think like an entrepreneur starting a business in this field. Who are the customers, and why do they need these products or services? Who are the major companies serving these customers, and which are the biggest players? Who are the newcomers or industry disrupters? Is the industry growing or slowing?

Set Google Alerts to track companies making major moves, executives you admire, and thinkers who are influencing trends, and start regularly reading industry news, publications, and reports. For example, if you’re interested in advertising, follow Creativity for the latest agency news and work highlights, as well as Seth Godin (known for claiming “advertising is dead”) for a contrarian point of view on the industry. You should also join relevant LinkedIn groups and curate your own Twitter lists to follow conversations about what’s going on in the field.

2. Get Social

Once you start to get a grasp of the area that interests you, it’s time to step up and build your personal brand by starting a blog or website. Not sure what to write about? Keep an eye on the business book lists of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, then write reviews of the ones that are relevant to your industry. And don’t be afraid to have a bold, provocative opinion. Lukewarm perspectives are rarely remembered, so take advantage of being a relative outsider and engage critically with their arguments.

Another fun idea? Reach out to authors directly, and ask to interview them for your blog—or even a podcast.

3. Get Seen

You’ve studied up and you’ve built an online presence, and now it’s time to be where the action is: In-person.

Find networking events in your area by engaging with professional organizations and using sites like Meetup, watching closely for for the subjects and names you’ve been researching. Then, show up with some really good questions to ask the people you meet. While you should definitely plan to approach any panelists or speakers, connecting with fellow attendees is just as important because they are likely to become your peers or co-workers if you make the transition.

In any case, ask people about the projects they’re working on, what they’re reading, and other events they’re attending, and actually take notes. You’ll look more engaged and genuinely interested if you say, “Let me make sure I remember that” and write it in a notebook or type it into your phone on the spot. Not to mention, you’ll remember more of that valuable information.

This might seem like a lot more work than just browsing positions in your new industry, and it is. But with employers increasingly preferring referrals over “cold” applications, you’ll want to do whatever it takes to get yourself ready and in the right place so the opportunities you want find you.