The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Industry for You

Consider these tips to find a career and industry that makes you happy.

Reviewed by Hayley Ramsey

Choosing the Best Industry and Profession

When it comes to finding a good career path, it is surprising how so many people just fall into a career with very little thought or planning. Choosing school subjects and university degrees often boxes people at a young age and they continue down that career path with little deviation or a belief that it isn’t possible to change their path. This can lead to unhappiness in our careers and, as time goes on, a feeling of being stuck.

It doesn’t have to be this way. It is possible to change industries at any time and, with some planning and consideration, it’s easier than you might think. Ask yourself, what’s the right career for me? Consider these tips for getting started on building a strategy for starting a career in an industry that suits you and find a job that you love.

Here's a quick overview to help you:

Choosing the right industry for you - infographic

1. Know your skills

A great place to start is by making a list of your skills, so you can see how these might transfer to a different industry. Whatever it is that you do, you will have amassed a wealth of skills. Some will be hard skills, which are very specific to the industry you’re in, and some will be soft skills, which are highly transferable. These transferable skills will be things like communication skills, leadership, teamwork and working under pressure. You’ll see that these types of skills can be utilized in many industries and roles.

Make a list of both hard and soft skills, so you can see which skills might translate to a new industry that you are interested. You will be able to use this list when you have more of an idea of some industries you’d like to try, so you can immediately see if you are a good fit, by comparing a job description with your skillset.

2. Understand your weaknesses

As well as knowing your strengths, it’s useful to know your weaknesses, too. Is there anything that you struggle with or really don’t enjoy? These might be areas to avoid and careers where you really need your weaknesses to be strengths may not be for you. However, it’s always possible to turn a weakness into a strength, so this list may also be a list of things you need to work on if they are essential for an industry swap that really appeals to you.

3. Make note of your non-negotiables

There will be certain things that you just simply will not bend on. It’s important to know what these are because they may write off certain industries. For example, if having weekends off is non-negotiable, working in the hospitality industry may not be for you. Having your non-negotiables clear will be like setting your boundaries. Your work-life balance is important, so it’s vital that you know where you will draw the line.

4. Determine what lights you up

Once you know your strengths and weaknesses and what is essential to you, you can start looking in depth at what your passions are. What gets you excited? What do you love? Asking yourself this question is very important as you are making the effort to choose a new industry. You really need to be sure what it is that you love doing.

Write down everything you love to do. Even if you feel like it’s stupid, or can’t possibly be something you could do. Be bold, include it all and then you can go back through and mark the items that are really relevant to your career. Do you love writing? Working with people? Solving problems? This list will be useful when searching for industries and roles that interest you. The more things you can hit from this list, the more appealing the industry and job.

5. Know and understand your values

Working for a company or in an industry that doesn’t honor your values can cause a misalignment that can make you miserable in your work. It’s essential that you can identify what you feel strongly about and find something that matches your values. If you believe in what you’re working towards, you will be happier and more productive. For example, if you are passionate about animal welfare, you would most likely not feel aligned with a company that tested its products on animals.

6. Ask someone else’s opinion

It’s important that this is about what you want to do and not what you think you should do, and this line can become blurred when you get the input of others and their advice. However, what is useful is asking people to help you identify your best skills and qualities. Quite often, we don’t see what other people see in ourselves. If you’re struggling to identify what you’re good at (or even if you think you know) it can be very beneficial to ask someone else this very question. You might be surprised at the answers. It might help you see things in a new light.

7. Employ a career coach

Changing industries can be challenging. Knowing what skills and qualifications are needed for different sectors, looking inward to find out what you are good at and what you love can be a difficult process, and many people use the help of a career coach to guide them. A good coach will have exercises to support you to establish what you want and will help you to put a plan together.

8. Do some industry research

Once you have done some work on yourself and have a better idea of the direction you are headed in, it’s time to do some research on different industries that interest you. Make a note of anything you think you will enjoy or what will fit with your skillset and then work back through what you’ve identified as skills, passions and non-negotiables and see where there is a match. Use google, search job boards and use websites, like Prospects, to read different job profiles. You can also talk to people in the industry and join industry-specific discussion groups on websites like LinkedIn. This is where you can also identify any gaps that need to be filled in experience or qualifications to make you a promising candidate.

9. Take a career test

There are websites available where you can put in your details and take a career test to see which industry you are most suited to. These sites will work on the same principle as outlined here, looking at your skills, strengths, experience and interests.

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10. Speak to people that have experience

As part of your research, speak to people who are already doing the job you think you want to do. Ask them questions to determine how they got into the industry, what they enjoy, what the work culture is like. Anything that will help you make a choice about where you want to be. People like to help, so build up a relationship or strike up a conversation and ask for advice.

11. Focus on upskilling

If you have identified any gaps in your skills or knowledge, if you’re really serious about making the change, this is a good time to address those. You may need to enroll on a course or if it’s experience you’re lacking, you may be able to undertake some volunteer work, or ask your current employer if you can take on some extra responsibilities in line with your new career plan.

12. Make professional connections and network

Speaking to people in the industry will mean you build up relevant contacts. These will be very useful for when you make the switch or in the meantime when you want to gain some additional experience. Use LinkedIn, go to in-person networking events if possible, and build up your contacts.

13. Consider doing a trial

Building up experience is useful, if not essential for your switch, but it will also give you to opportunity to trial a position to make sure it really is for you. If you are able to get some volunteer work in your chosen industry, you will have a better understanding of what the job entails and whether you really do like it. If you do, the work experience will look great on your CV/résumé. If not, you can cross it off your list and try something else.

14. Think about the future

An industry change might mean that you cannot enter a new position at your current level, due to having less experience, if this is the case, it’s a good idea to look at the bigger picture and make a personalized career plan for where you want to get to. If you have to start in an entry-level role, make sure there is scope for career progression so that you will have the opportunity to rise to your current level and above.

Final thoughts

A career change to a new industry can be daunting, but with the proper approach and a solid strategy, the process is easier than you might think. There will be some work to dig deep and discover your motivations, skills and passions and you can use these to find a good fit for you. Trialing different options, whether through experience, courses or talking to people in the roles, are essential for helping you determine which move is best for you.

Are you thinking of changing industry? Do you have any tips that helped you? Let us know in the comments section below!

This is an updated version of an article originally published on 11 January 2017.