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I have 10 years of professional experience in the fossil fuel IT industry.

It has taught me many valuable lessons, and fairly compensated me, but there are a few major motivators for me wanting to change industry alignment. Most of all, as I gain more senior positions, I have more awareness of the business impact of my projects and initiatives, and I frankly think I will feel much more happy if I make a positive impact on a business not as detrimental to society as hydrocarbons. In fewer words, I want to reflect more positively upon my impact on society. There are other motivators that would just distract from this question but suffice to say it isn't about the technology I work with or the pay or the colleagues. Those are all fine.

I have been unsuccessfully applying to Healthcare IT positions for about 6 months. I have not progressed beyond HR screens except one time. While hiring policies rarely allow for explanations of why you were not selected, the main things I hear are:

  • You need industry experience for this position, and you do not have it
  • You are too experienced for this position

I have tinkered with my resume several times and the responses don't seem to change materially.

I think the specific industries are not relevant, and when I turn the question around I can understand how the hiring managers are thinking - I am often hiring or placing contractors, and I would never suggest someone who has less than 5 years of industry experience for anything other than an entry level job, and I would balk at someone with 10 years of experience in another industry applying for an entry level position.

It's worth mentioning my experience revolves mostly around enterprise applications and their software development lifecycle - which I feel is a slightly less portable skill than networking or security, for example.

How can someone make a compelling case for a hiring manager in a different industry?

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    Are you in a large oil and gas market? Feb 26, 2020 at 0:47
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    Are you dead set on healthcare or are you open to other industries as well? Feb 26, 2020 at 1:22
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    I am not dead set on healthcare. A passion of mine is education. I am open to other industries. In the very beginning of my acknowledgement I wanted to do something different (over 3 years ago) I really struggled at a high level about how many different things I could do that would give me a greater sense of social impact. I decided I needed to focus and landed on healthcare because of its macro scale importance over the next few decades in my country (USA). Feb 26, 2020 at 1:28
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    Are you cold-calling for these applications? A situation like this is probably where a human factor plays more of a role, so career fairs and networking events would likely be your best bet
    – Mars
    Feb 26, 2020 at 4:13
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    Have you tried looking at software companies in your location that is in the US and is the largest O&G market and has a large enough healthcare industry to create an entire healthcare IT market? If your location is the one I'm thinking of, there is at least one midsized enterprise software company there.
    – shoover
    Feb 26, 2020 at 16:55

4 Answers 4

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I've been in this situation but I've got invited to plenty of interviews in other industries.

The clue is:

  • to stress your functional experience. What field are you working in functionally? E.g. if you're in sales you can try to switch to a different industry into sales. Always stress that you are a sales system expert. Of course it's more difficult if you are doing something upstream,

  • a bit linked to that, stress the transferable skills. E.g. IT systems repeat across industries as do work methods.

  • have a very good argumentation why you want to get into the specific industry. This shouldn't seem random.

Having said that, pharmaceuticals/ healthcare is a quite specific industry and it's not that easy to break into it especially if you do operations as distinct from sales/marketing systems.

But it's not impossible. Actually the most difficult change is, according to my experience, the switch between any other industry, e.g. chemicals and financial services (banks, insurances). I did actually receive such offers but normally, it's very tricky as financial institutions work quite differently than anything else.

I think the specific industries are not relevant, and when I turn the question around I can understand how the hiring managers are thinking - I am often hiring or placing contractors, and I would never suggest someone who has less than 5 years of industry experience for anything other than an entry level job

I find this comment strange. I switched jobs from a junior position in one industry into a senior position in a very different industry. If you can offer the company something they need why wouldn't they want you just because you are currently working in a different industry?

I've worked in several industries and yes, there are differences but there are also plenty of similarities and you can learn about the differences in max. a month. Actually, I think it's incredibly valuable to have on team someone "from outside".

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How can someone make a compelling case for a hiring manager in a different industry?

Realistically to a stranger you can't. You just need to keep trying. A decades industry specific experience is just not that valuable elsewhere. So you push your generic expertise and hope for the best.

Your best course is to leverage any professional network you may have developed as they can attest to your skills and abilities.

Having said that, I changed industries more than once, the trick for me was not to get frustrated, always have work (even manual labour) to pay the bills and keep trying.

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A big area like healthcare can probably always find people with industry specific experience, so you may always lose out to a better candidate.

It's easier with smaller industries. If a company works in a specialist niche, they don't expect to find people with experience of that niche. Instead they'll look for experience of working with the same size project, or the same technology. Your generic IT experience is as useful as anyone else's here.

Alternately, if there's an area you particularly want to get into, you can apply for more junior roles in the hope that your other experience will help you regain your seniority in a few years.

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Part of the problem is you're viewing yourself as a "Petrol Worker" who happens to do IT.

No. You're an IT specialist... who happens to be working at a petrol company.

I worked as a dev in an Insurance company for 9 years. Want to guess where my next job was? A manufacturing plant. And then after that? A logistics company. Followed by another stint at an insurance company. That's because I wasn't an "Insurance programmer", or a "Manufacturing Programmer", or a "Logistics Programmer." I'm a programmer. The industry I'm in is a distant second to that fact.

So, stop blaming your current industry for why you're not getting further in interview processes. No - there's something that's holding you back that you can improve on. Maybe there's a skill set you could use some work on. Maybe you need to get better at interviews. Or even something else entirely. The point is: find a way to get better and improve, and then do it. (The moment you start passing of blame to an external factor, is the moment you stop getting better and make the next interview more likely to be a success.)

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