How to break into a new industry in 2021

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Q: Since November, I have applied to 22 jobs, had 2 phone interviews and 7 Zoom interviews. I still have not received a job offer.  Many of the jobs I have interviewed for have involved development or membership experience, which I don’t have much of.  However, I am concerned that maybe I’m doing something wrong during the interviews. I am 40 years old and have nearly two decades of work experience, mostly as a journalist and public relations professional.  Any recommendations?

A: Congrats on your level of activity during an odd hiring season. From what you have shared, it sounds like you have landed some telephone and/or Zoom interviews.

One detail that you provided concerns me though.  You mention that you are applying for roles in development, and you have little experience in development or membership.  Most employers are looking for relevant experience, or skills that may transfer easily.  If you can’t demonstrate that you have relevant experience, I believe that you will have a tough time securing an offer.

If you are looking to move to a new industry, think about re-working your resume.  Never fabricate information, but if you have relevant experience in related industries, that should be mentioned.  Additionally, begin to connect with others in development.  On LinkedIn, join development groups.  Become more active and connected to your alma mater.  Colleges often like to establish relationships with successful alums.

Think about who you might know who could facilitate introductions in development.  Do you know of a friend or neighbor in that industry?  As a journalist, have you covered stories within higher ed and/or development?  Have you written press releases which touch non-profits and/or fundraising?  Are you active in any non-profits?  Do you volunteer at a favorite non-profit?

You are more likely to be given a chance to enter a new industry by someone who knows you.  Maybe someone has worked with you as a journalist but serves on the board of a non-profit.  Or perhaps your alumni office is looking to add to their staff.  As you probably know, many colleges are struggling during this pandemic, as are many non-profits.  It may be worth “planting seeds” now for when, hopefully, post-pandemic, many of these organizations begin to hire again.

If you are landing interviews, your resume must be strong.  However, you are likely competing with others with more experience.  Your lack of experience in development is probably your greatest stumbling block.  Volunteering is one way to learn about non-profits but also expand your network.

In January, fresh budget dollars sometimes become available.  Develop a plan for 2021 but focus your plan on increasing your contacts in non-profits.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.

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