I'm a (Senior) Mechanical Engineer that has been working in the Oil & Gas Industry for around 10-11 years. I am interested in changing to a different industry (e.g. medical devices, aerospace, automation), as I am feeling somewhat jaded in my current role and would like to try/learn something new and broaden my experience.

However, every job posting that I look at for Engineering positions in other industries seems to require at least 2-3 years of very specific experience in that industry, which I simply don't have. How can I overcome this barrier?

I don't really see this as a 'career change' - it would still be Mechanical Engineering and I have many transferable skills that would be highly relevant to other industries. There must be some way to accomplish this - I know that people manage to make much more significant career changes to completely different paths.

I guess it comes down to the fundamental question of: "If every position requires specific experience, then how does anyone get that experience in the first place?" It would seem ridiculous to me for Engineers to end up being pigeon-holed to the extent that they are trapped in the first industry they happened to find themselves in out of college.

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    You can overcome the barrier by applying to such jobs anyway - "requirements" are often flexible. I'm sure you can also find some stuff to do in your free time that would pique their interest more than 2-3 years in some stock-standard industry job would. – Dukeling Jun 22 '18 at 22:10
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    @Dukeling Thanks for your advice and the link. Of course, I am applying for those positions anyway, but I very seldom hear anything back. The impression I'm getting is that Engineering Managers seem very hung up on the 'experience' factor. I know from when we consider Engineering applicants for my current business - I've heard Managers say things like "We have to find someone who has valve experience" ... – Time4Tea Jun 23 '18 at 10:57
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    Keep in mind that there may be other factors that could cause you to not hear back, such as how and where you apply and what your cover letters and resume look like. – Dukeling Jun 23 '18 at 11:41

Apply for the jobs you think you would be good at. Don’t worry if you think your resume doesn’t match the job description perfectly. Good employer hire for the potential you bring, not what you know right now. Often companies will also recognize that if they give up on a requirement like 3 years industry experience they can replace it with something much more valuable, such as a 10 years engineering experience.

You will have to accept that in many ways you will be moving from being a senior employee to a junior employee because you will have a lot to learn. This may even mean taking a pay cut for a while.

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    Thanks for your comments. As I mentioned to Dukeling above, I am applying for those positions anyway, but rarely hear anything back. I don't know .. perhaps Employers are simply spoiled for Engineering talent in my area? I will of course keep trying. I agree that finding a good individual should be a higher priority than finding a mediocre person with the 'right experience'; however, it seems that hiring Managers aren't thinking that way. A pay cut for me right now would be difficult, but I agree it might be necessary. – Time4Tea Jun 23 '18 at 11:10

If you’d like to learn/try something new maybe you could do some postgraduate study in your area of interest. This could help to feed your curiosity as well as increase your employability for those roles where you don’t have experience in that specific industry.

  • Thanks, it's a good suggestion, and something I should definitely look into more. Still, I feel like it's tricky to substitute 'book study' for 'industry experience', if that's what they're really looking for. – Time4Tea Jun 23 '18 at 11:00
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    Thats true, if it’s more that you’re interested in a change for variety’s sake then maybe appying for jobs that are within your experience with companies who manage multi-discipinary projects could yield some opportunities. I know a mechanical and manufacturing engineer who oversaw the installation of tunnel linings his company was making and ended up staying on the project and becoming a geotechnical engineer many years later. – Brendan.H Jun 23 '18 at 12:17

To add onto Ben Mz's answer. Apply to the jobs anyway and make sure that you tailor your resume to each posting. You need to show them that you have the skills they're looking for, or show that you can learn them, even if you don't have the exact experience they want. If the job posting is asking for 3 years experience using design widget A using process A and you have experience designing widget B using process A or process B and the skills can transfer to A then put that in your resume.

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