Sometimes we get two competing offers: one from an industry we have an expertise in and one from a new industry we don’t have a lot of experience with, but, because we’ve demonstrated an ability to transition well into new environments and have a transferable skill, we get the offer.
The question becomes, should I take the offer from a new industry or do I take the offer from the industry I know? There are benefits to both. Sometimes, of course, we don’t have the luxury of two competing offers and the situation dictates the decision. So, where we have an offer from a different industry, we take it. Taking an offer from a different industry, of course, isn’t necessarily a bad thing because you can minimize your risk down the road by having a new industry under your belt, but I often walk someone through the thought process regarding accepting an offer from another industry.
Generalist or Specialist
I once wrote about positioning yourself as a generalist versus a specialist when looking for a job. Specialists know what they are good at doing and look to uncover those situations where they can apply what they know to a role. A specialist has a general reputation for getting a job done. A specialist also usually has an internal industry reputation.
The conclusion was that it was better if you could position yourself as a specialist when looking for a job because you’ll set yourself apart from the competitive landscape and you’ll hear about more opportunities than you would if you were positioning yourself as a generalist who could do any job.
And this focus on being a specialist applies not only to a functional skill set but also to an industry. An internal industry reputation is the sum of accomplishments and relationships/touch points you have with all the players in that industry. You are usually active in that industry, you are usually well networked with your peers, and you have positioned yourself as a subject matter expert (SME) in your field. You don’t just have a job; you have a strong internal industry reputation.
This industry focus gives you a powerful foundation from which you’ll hear about relevant roles, from which you can be impactful in a company and from which your speed of accomplishments isn’t held up by any learning curve.
Is it possible to build an internal industry reputation in another industry in a reasonable amount of time? Yes, of course, but at the end of the day, assuming your industry isn’t going downhill quickly, the expertise you’ve derived from going deep into an industry and that you bring to the table gives you an invaluable perspective that others don’t have. It sets you apart, it positions you as an SME.
Bottom line: Going deep into an industry is a smart way to go.