How to Break into a New Industry with No Connections or Experience

The age-old conundrum of needing experience to gain experience lives on. Employers want to hire someone with experience, but how do you get experience if no one will hire you? When you’re trying to move into a new industry, getting your big break can be a tough task. Some job seekers are able to find a loophole based on personal connections. But for those who have no connections or experience in their industry of choice, the challenge can seem insurmountable. Fortunately, with the right strategy, it’s not.  You can get the job you want without experience and without connections if you follow this advice:

new industry no connections

1. Don’t expect to start at the top

You may have been a high level executive in your previous position. But now that you’re pursuing employment in a different industry, don’t be surprised if you have to step on a lower rung of the corporate ladder. Since some of your skills and background are probably transferable, you don’t necessarily have to go entry level. But without industry-specific experience or your favorite uncle making the hiring decisions, chances are, you won’t start at the top. If your ego cannot handle this inevitability, you may want to reconsider changing careers. But if your pragmatic side can tolerate the blow, by all means, take the job that will get you in the door. If you can catch on quickly, you’ll probably rise through the ranks at a much faster level than you did when you were fresh out of school.

2. Rework your resume and cover letter

Since your resume is designed to highlight your experience, it’s probably focused on the industry you’re coming from rather than the one you’re aspiring to join. Even if the two industries are unrelated, there are ways around this. For example, if you’ve been working in office supply sales and now you want to work in advertising, you need to think about what you do in different words (words that will resonate with the industry you’re trying to move into). Instead of saying “I was responsible for selling office supplies to new clients,” say “I encouraged new clients to purchase by highlighting the value-added features of our products.” Showing how your sales experience involved advertising will help an agency see how your background could work in a new field.

3. Make yourself stand out

One advantage you have over the applicants with direct experience is that your resume will stand out from the pack. The key is to make sure it stands out in a good way. In addition to reworking your resume and cover letter as described above, it is equally essential to go the extra mile to ensure you get an interview. Once you land that all-important interview, you can use your excellent communication skills to win over the hiring manager. But until then, all you have to show is what’s in writing. Take advantage of your first opportunity to shine by using a unique approach. For example, try writing a story resume.  According to “A story resume takes your experiences and qualifications and weaves them together into a coherent and clear narrative. You want to aim for less than a page in length and include all relevant information about yourself, your education, your experiences, and where you ultimately see yourself at the company to which you are applying.” Essentially, this approach accomplishes everything a traditional resume does, but in a more creative and unexpected way.

4. Acquire additional education or experience

Having skills that are actually related to your newly chosen industry is always a plus. You do not (in most cases) have to go back to college and earn a whole new degree. But it never hurts to have some extra classes, workshops, or seminars on your resume. This shows you’re serious about your career change, and you’re doing everything in your power to make yourself knowledgeable and marketable. Depending on the industry you’ve chosen, you may also be able to do volunteer work that builds related skills. A combination of additional education and experience will have the greatest persuasive power, but if your schedule only permits one or the other, don’t worry. Anything you can do to strengthen your viability will improve your chances of getting hired.

5. Network

Just because you don’t have any connections in the industry now, doesn’t mean you can’t acquire some.  Networking, both on and offline, is one of the best ways to get your name out there and build a solid base of useful connections. Attending industry-related events is a sure way to begin meeting those important contacts. Websites such as LinkedIn can be a networking goldmine as well. The more people you know, the better your chances are of finding a good fit. If nothing else, you can probably get some valuable advice from people who are already established in the career you’re pursuing. 

Entering into a new industry, no matter where you are in your career, is as challenging as it is exhilarating. You’ve already done the hardest part—you’ve committed to making the change. Now it’s just a matter of doing the right things to make sure your endeavors pay off. It will take effort, but if you follow the advice given here, you can break into a new industry with no experience or connections.

Search for your next job now:


Back to listing

The Washington Post Jobs Newsletter

Subscribe to the latest news about DC's jobs market