Sometimes we get two competing offers: one from an industry in which we have expertise; and another from a new industry in which, rather than experience, we have a transferable skill. 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. As an executive recruiter, I often walk people through the thought process of evaluating offers from other industries.
Positioning Yourself as a Specialist
I recently wrote about positioning yourself as a specialist versus a generalist when looking for a job. Specialists know what they are good at doing and look to uncover situations where they can apply what they know to a role. A specialist is known for getting the job done and usually has an internal industry reputation.
It’s better to position yourself as a specialist when looking for a job because you’ll set yourself apart from the competitive landscape and hear about more opportunities than if you were positioning yourself as a generalist who could do any job.
Building an Internal Industry Reputation
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. A strong reputation is built by staying active in the industry, becoming well networked with your peers, and positioning yourself as a subject matter expert (SME) in your field.
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 the learning curve.
Considering Other Industries
Is it possible to build a solid 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 gives you an invaluable perspective that others don’t bring to the table. It sets you apart and positions you as an SME.
Sometimes, of course, we don’t have the luxury of two competing offers and the situation dictates the decision. So, when we have an offer from a different industry, we take it. Taking an offer from a new industry isn’t necessarily a bad thing because you can minimize risk down the road by having a wider scope of experience and a new industry under your belt.
But in most cases, going deep into an industry, positioning yourself as specialist, and building an internal industry reputation is the smart way to go for career growth.