Jaime Leverston is CEO of Hut 8 Mining.
One of the most common topics I’m asked about is the industry career switch I made two years ago. With a number of companies laying off thousands of employees in the fourth quarter of this year, many professionals may well be contemplating a career pivot of their own.
Twenty years ago, when my manager at a major technology corporation casually asked me what I saw for my future, I answered without hesitation: “CEO.” He was incredulous, but I was serious. Why wouldn’t I strive for the highest job? Now, after a 20-plus year career at traditional technology companies, I pivoted into a role that put me on the front lines of an emerging industry, and today I’m the CEO of a publicly listed digital currency miner. I decided to make this pivot because, like many established professionals, I was ready for a new set of challenges and the excitement of learning a new space.
Traditionally, changing industries was a career move for younger and more junior team members who were still navigating their career directions. This is no longer the case. A career pivot into a new industry is of interest to many mid-career and senior leaders as well. Many career paths are still emerging year-over-year, so pivoting could make sense if you’re looking for new responsibilities and opportunities.
The average age of career changers is 39, according to a 2019 Indeed survey of 662 full-time U.S. workers. The interest in this kind of career transformation is growing globally: Only 35% “of those who quit in the past two years took a new job in the same industry,” McKinsey reported. Here’s what I learned about navigating this transition as an established professional moving into a new industry.
Give it sufficient time.
While the time to land a new job will vary according to the level of the position and your strength as a candidate, it can still take months to find a new role. When looking to make a complete industry career switch, plan for it to take even longer, and give yourself the time to research options and better understand how you can contribute to this new sector.
Identify the right next industry.
When considering the type of industry to move into, it can help to start with the framework of whether an established or emerging industry is better suited for you. An established industry can be more predictable and mature, while an emerging space is generally faster-moving and less defined. Each offers different learning options and work styles.
From here, finding the best fit in this new industry begins with understanding what leaders in those verticals are worried about and looking to solve. This starts with getting to know as much as possible about the industry. Attend conferences, look at job listings and announcements, and understand the current pressure points and sector needs. Talk to industry leaders directly and find perspectives and front-line insights into the key challenges and opportunities. This is how I came to know that my unique half-tech/half-finance background would be a solid fit to help the digital currency space at this early stage in its lifecycle.
Do a personal and professional experience audit.
Treat yourself and your career as you would a corporation. Think about what you can contribute and what you need to succeed.
Start by listing the skills and abilities you’ve developed throughout your career, and take a more expansive lens than you might have done in the past. Beyond the industry or job specifics, what are the business, strategic or organizational challenges solved, opportunities leveraged or successes delivered? How can your past experiences contribute to how you solve problems in the present? Sift through your attributes to find transferable impact points, professional throughlines, and skills and experiences that would interest your target industry. My experience with transformation and growth became the throughline connecting my earlier career chapters to the currents of my new industry and company.
Consider how your journey and perspective can benefit your target industry or team as well. For me, I saw how male-dominated my current and target industry were. I made changing this reality part of my unique offer.
Tailor your story.
Moving into a new industry requires recasting your career pitch and story so it reflects the problems and priorities of the sector leaders with whom you would like to work. When making an industry shift, be prepared to share why you want to make the industry jump and how you anticipate making a positive impact.
Finally, don’t be afraid to leverage your newcomer status as an asset. A fresh perspective can bring important new perspectives, and, as a result, companies can no longer assume they should fill vacant roles with talent profiles as they have in the past.
Tell your network.
As much as I prepared myself to receive opportunities, all my roles have come either from my network or from others who connected an opening to my capabilities. This is the case with many roles, especially in tech. Some estimates suggest that up to 85% of positions are filled through networking.
When you’re ready to explore roles, reach out to your network and let them know that you’re exploring opportunities outside of your current industry. Share the details of your story that can help them keep you in mind when new openings arise.
Making a mid-career industry shift can be challenging and stressful, but it can also be deeply rewarding over the long term. Research by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt showed that people who choose change are more content than those who don’t. As I reach the second anniversary of my new role, I would certainly agree. These past two years have been even more exciting and enjoyable than I could have hoped.
Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?