How Hard is it to Switch Industries?

Have been in a Corp Strat seat for nearly a year now — love my job/team but the industry I work for is on the more mundane side.

Looking down the road (a few years time), how hard is it to switch between industries? Particularly from non-tech to tech/retail?


I have switched industries a few times, it all depends...

- is the target industry going through a transformation/growth period right now? Then it might be easier to transfer your skills
- is there a lack of professionals who are available or willing to work in that field?
- are there disadvantages for a certain industry, i.e. location, comp, exit opps, culture, public view, ..?
- sometimes you have to be there at the right time and you are in.

There are advantages of having worked in the industry before, you may have to acquire knowledge and skills.

If your goal is to switch industries to a popular location, with many available staff, high comp and acceptable culture - it might be more difficult.


Thank you — this makes sense. One follow-up question:

Was prior experience in the target industry a huge factor in determining whether you got the job? I always imagined its just a matter of transferring relevant corp strat skills (which I assume is quite ubiquitous) and picking up industry knowledge at the new gig.


Sometimes my previous industries were "adjacent" to the new one (and the new BU erroneously just assumed that it will be fine) and sometimes I had zero knowledge of a new industry.

Industry knowledge is key in performing at your job. Unless you have a role that is so disconnected from the business that it wouldn't matter.

Corp Strat for a telco company would be different from a medical group, etc.

Most Helpful

I’ve worked in different verticals of the same industry plus a completely different field. Practically speaking, my previous experience exposed me to very little applicable knowledge outside of general technical and presentation skills but for the roles in the same broad industry, my experience helped me pass resume screens. For the job in a completely different field, the firm was hiring based on a talent first approach, and my story for why I wanted the job helped me secure it. 

What I’ve observed is that early on in your career, it’s much easier to make moves into different verticals and new industries. It also helps if there is a bull market and most companies are forced to be more open to who they hire. As you become more senior, niche knowledge becomes more important regardless of the market environment. That’s because relatively speaking you are giving more directions and guidance across the board as opposed to taking it as a junior. The exceptions here are the companies who take a talent first approach.

There are some fields that have much more stringent industry or even specific vertical experience requirements than others. The ones that standout are pharma and O&G. This is based on applying to all sorts of industry jobs across the US over a few months as an analyst. 

The fields more open to different experience were CPG, consumer internet, and marketplaces.


Thank you — super helpful response. One follow-up:

In your experience in strategy, at what point (in terms of # years into an industry or responsibilities involved — you mentioned work delegation) does one get too senior such that a move to a different industry is extremely difficult? Im a year into corp strat (after doing 3 years as a generalist IB Analyst) and want to avoid getting pigeon-holed into the industry I’m in, which is pretty niche but one step below the ultra-niche ones like Insurance, Oil&Gas or Pharma/Healthcare. Thanks in advance!


I would say your first four-ish years into your career (analyst/associate + manager in title) are defined as mainly being an executor and less of a direction setter, so being technically adept and a general problem solver are valued more vs. your industry knowledge. Therefore, on a relative basis to later in your career, this is the easiest period to make moves.

I would say when things become distinctly harder are lateraling at or into a director position. This is when you are expected to run projects end-to-end and actually advise senior management, and while you’ll still be given a grace period for ramping up, you are expected to bring industry know-how and best practices to an employer. Another function of why it’s harder at this stage is because there are much fewer openings, so from a supply/demand perspective, it’s easier for companies to be more picky.


As the previous commentors have stated it's pretty doable.

From my own personal experience, I went from consumer products / QSR to tech a few years ago. It wasn't too difficult at the time (probably do the strong hiring market as well), but I'd say you should have good answers for 1) why you want to make the switch / what attracts you to the new industry and 2) why your experience in a different industry is still applicable (e.g., M&A process is more or less the same across industries).

After going through another round of job hunting recently I have run into roadblocks where a job wanted specific industry experience (e.g., tech positions requiring enterprise software revenue forecasting experience), but overall there wasn't that much friction especially for less "attractive" industries (e.g., payments processing, manufacturing, etc.). I think this is even more true for less competitive finance positions (e.g., switching industries in corpdev / strategy vs. FP&A). 


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