Changing Industries as a Project Manager: Your 3 Steps to Success

Jan 16, 2017

Project managers have an advantage that few other professionals do. When changing industries as a project manager, rather than starting anew on a fresh career path, many of their PM skills transfer outright. First-hand PM experience and certifications accelerate retraining for these candidates, making their shift into leadership within their new industries far less of a struggle.

Though the universal applicability of project management expertise naturally eases the transition, successful professionals still need to make strategic moves to eliminate obstacles and overcome any objections from hiring managers. Our recruiters find that project managers who thrive because of their decision are the ones who take great pains to do the following three things.




Make Targeted PM Resumes to the New Industry

In your current industry, what constitutes as an effective resume differs from one company to the next. One role might demand more from your budget management experience while another will be concerned with client-facing deliverables. Successfully changing industries as a project manager requires them to understand which fundamentals have broad appeal and which are lost in translation.

For example, let’s say you were going from IT project management to manufacturing. Employers want clear evidence that you give each phase in the PM life cycle its due. Even if you have limited manufacturing experience, being able to demonstrate your ability to guide projects through initiation, planning, execution, and closure shows your strengths with fundamentals that span industries.

On the other hand, putting undue emphasis on a CompTIA Project+ certification would waste time. Though many of the fundamentals are shared, a more effective use of resume space would highlight the capabilities acquired by the more universal PMP certification.

Bridge the Skills Gap as Quickly as Possible

Beyond showing mastery of the fundamentals, successful PMs who change industries embrace their new niche with research. Which knowledge gaps need to be closed? Are certain certifications and skillsets valued higher than other PM disciplines? Being able to answer those questions early and take action smooths out the transition.

Imagine you are moving from IT to healthcare project management. If you have been working in a healthcare IT environment, you might have first-hand experience with some HIPAA requirements and the stringent expectations of cybersecurity practices. Depending on your specific situation, the areas that might need strengthening are workforce management at a larger scale or more direct interaction with the Affordable Care Act. Successful transition takes advanced preparation.

Before officially changing industries as a project manager, prepare as much as possible. Seek out industry specific PM training courses. Review what industry players and specialists have to say so you absorb as much insider information as possible prior to the transition. Find ways to get first-hand experience, whether that involves volunteering at a non-profit in that industry or, in fields like IT, starting up your own project.

Network Strategically in Your Desired Industry

One obstacle that often goes overlooked is the need to establish an entirely new set of industry connections. Though your current professional network might have some crossover into your desired field, the full scope of your networking will be diminished. However, project managers who make a concerted effort to rebuild their network have a much easier time of propelling their careers forward.

Early in the process, be sure to reach out to industry organizations and inquire about the best ways to transition into your new industry. Attend networking events through local chapters of national organizations or even use platforms like Meetup to make new contacts through a more informal setting. And if you are ready to start reaching decision makers in your new industry, connect with recruiters who have experience in your target market. That way, you maximize the most of your job search in half the time.

w3r is experienced with placing project managers within positions nationwide. Review our latest job opportunities and contact us to see what we can do to advance your transition into a new field.

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