If the economy has affected your employment prospects, consider applying your skills in a new industry. "The health-care, high-tech, energy and life-sciences sectors of the economy continue to drive demand for specialist professional and management talent," says Joseph McCool, a recruitment-industry consultant. But before leaping to another field, you'll need to reposition yourself as a legitimate candidate. Terry Scherck, managing director at Slayton Search Partners, says you should do your homework to find the right industry.
Find an area that interests you. A hobby or personal interest may lead to your next career. For example, if you are in financial services and are a technology buff, consider looking at in-house finance positions at tech companies.
Learn the landscape. To assess opportunities, research the market for your functional areas of expertise and the relative health of any sector you might go into. The recent turmoil at financial firms underscores the need to go beyond research on compensation and industry trends. Educate yourself on how a company or industry runs and pending legislation that may affect the employment outlook in a field. Review analyst reports, scour RSS feeds, and set up Google News Alerts by keyword once you've narrowed a field of interest.
Examine your experience. Identify transferable skills and value. "It's not uncommon for executives to cross industries," says Deb Dib, a career coach who works with senior leaders of small to mid-cap firms. In those cases, you're hired not as an industry expert but as an innovative leader with potential. Ms. Dib suggests working with a career adviser to identify your strengths and figure out what differentiates you and what might put you above others with experience in your targeted field. "Focus on the transferable impact of that value and show how you can make a bottom-line impact," she says.
Develop a communications strategy. Create a core message that shows your value. "Once you identify your point of differentiation, that becomes your calling card -- everything you do should support that," advises Ms. Dib. Use your resume, cover letter, and online sites such as LinkedIn to build visibility and credibility, she says. To refine your message, consider 15secondpitch.com, an interactive site that will help you create a summary statement.
Consider a recruitment agency. As practice leader for Slayton's life sciences and health-care division, Mr. Scherck often presents clients with candidates who aren't industry insiders; many clients are willing to consider cross-over talent. In many industries, the demand for talent exceeds the supply. To find firms that work with "cross-over" talent, check out Kennedy Information's Directory of Executive Recruiters and view directory listings by functional area.
Be prepared for compensation adjustments. A change of industry may affect your bottom line; prepare your financial strategy in private and show that you can adjust. "Demonstrate that you are willing to put your own skin in the game," says Mr. Scherck.Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page D4