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Four Things I Did to Break Into a New Industry

Four Things I Did to Break Into a New Industry

Everybody and they mama are trying to "break into" a new field these days... including me.

More and more people are realizing that they don't have to stick to one thing in their professional careers. Employers are no longer side-eyeing people that job hop or don't have degrees directly related to the field. Now, it's about transferable skills, personality, and experience, not credentials.

Jash in cap and gown
Me graduating with my BS in Mechanical Engineering

I'm living proof of this evolution in the way people think about business and the professional world. I have a degree in mechanical engineering and have never used it in a professional manner since graduation. Instead, I spent three years teaching abroad and then transitioned into remote work where I've held positions in web design, virtual assistance, graphic design, social media management, and project management. Now, I'm working full time in marketing and communications.

And get this. My current employers were ecstatic to see the diversity in my experiences. It was seen as a positive, not a negative. Years ago that would not have been the case. Previous generations valued company loyalty and longevity at one place of employment. Having too many places of employment was a red flag.

Luckily for us, times have changed. My international experience showed my skills in adaptability, working with people with different backgrounds, language proficiencies, understanding cultural differences, and a bunch of other shit that a degree wouldn't give me. Freelancing gave me the opportunity to try a lot of different things until I found what I truly enjoyed doing and that's exactly what I said in my interviews.

"They say to try it in your twenties so I did."

- Me in every interview

I mean am I lying? People are constantly telling young people that their twenties are the time to experiment, try different things, take risks, and figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life. Most people don't take that advice, but I'm not most people (and neither are you). The field I decided to pursue at eighteen wasn't the field I wanted to pursue at 21 and there's nothing wrong with that. I can change my mind.

There I was with a degree that I was no longer interested in so I had two options.

  1. Go to work in engineering even though I knew it was no longer my passion or

  2. Take a leap of faith and try something different

I'll take door number two every single time. My semester abroad volunteering as an English teacher turned into a lifestyle and the next year three years of my life. Teaching took me to four different countries on four different continents and I regret NOTHING.

The idea of taking a leap of faith into the unknown is nerve-racking, but, in my experience, more than worth it. Leaving teaching to go into freelancing meant abandoning something safe and taking a risk. Leaving freelancing to break into the marketing and communications industry was the same thing, but I'm not new to this, I'm true to this.

Jash struggling to exit a plane
Me carrying all my shit back to my Mama house... again

I closed all my freelancing contracts (fancy way of saying I quit, lol) and moved back to my Mama house to really focus on job hunting because I knew it was going to be an uphill battle. I got a little part time job at Chili's working nights and weekends to have some income and rolled up my sleeves to do the work. Job hunting is almost always a long game, especially when you're trying to switch industries.

There are some things you can do to help you in the process and, hopefully, make it easier on yourself. A lot of people are looking to break into new fields and industries with no direction, but taking a step back to really identify what you want to do will save you a lot of time. Sure, people that write code make a lot of money, but is that something you truly want to do or are you chasing a check? Saying you work for Google may sound really impressive at a dinner bar, but will that fulfill you on a personal level?

Here are four things I did to help me successfully break into a new industry:

Get a Mentor

Having someone to help you navigate the job search and provide insights into the field you're breaking into is a game changer. The expertise, experience, and network of your mentor will be immensely beneficial to you during this transition. From guidance to support, a mentor can help you navigate the challenges and uncertainties that come with such a major change.

Finding a mentor in the industry you're looking to move into is the cherry on top of the cake. For me, I was lucky to be connected with someone working in my desired field that helped me along the way. From helping me get my portfolio together (more on that in the next section) to picking my ass up off the ground after rejection emails to literally doing mock interviews with me, having a mentor made a huge difference.

Aside from moral support, a mentor can help you get your foot in the door and expand your network. When moving from one industry to another that can often mean building a new professional network and a mentor can help you begin forming those new connections.

My mentor pointed me in the direction of online communities to join, people to connect with on LinkedIn and even places to find job postings. I was able to form connections in the industry, improve my resume/cover letter, secure interviews and offers, and further my job hunting process with the help of my mentor.

All this shit sounds like a dream, but I already know what you're thinking: How the hell do I find a mentor in the first place?

Good question. Everybody says having a mentor is a great idea, but steps to go about finding a mentor is a lot harder to find. So, let's break that down.

The first way I was able to get a great mentor was by forming genuine relationships with coworkers in previous positions. Working with a group of people for months or even years gives you a lot time to build a strong connection that could outlast your time at the organization or company. As a freelancer, I was able to work in a bunch of different environments and connect with people around the world. During my transition, all of my references were coworkers and supervisors from previous freelance contracts and they were all instrumental in me securing multiple offers.

Previous coworkers and supervisors are also great because they have direct experience working with you. They already know your strengths and where you have room for improvement. It's not super awkward because they're not a stranger you randomly sent a DM to on LinkedIn. This is someone that knows you and wants to see you succeed. So, when you're preparing to move on to a new position, don't complete forget about everyone you're leaving behind.

Another way I was able to get mentorship was by putting myself in the room with people that wanted to see me win, even if we didn't know each other. With the help of my first mentor, I was able to join online communities full of career professionals looking to network, share advice and even take on a mentee. There are countless places to find these communities such as Facebook Groups and other online spaces.

I joined a Facebook Group and literally posted about transitioning into a new industry and looking for a mentor. The post quickly took off with young professionals commenting their field and what they were looking for in a mentorship relationship. I wasn't the only twenty-something looking for some guidance from the more seasoned professionals out there and my post became that safe space for others to connect.

Look, shooters gone shoot 🏀

Closed mouths don't get fed.

And every other saying out there.

But in all seriousness, breaking into a new industry is work and part of that journey involves putting yourself out there. Applying for positions, interviewing, networking, and, yes, getting a mentor.

Create a Portfolio

This may seem like a simple thing to do, but it didn't even occur to me to create a portfolio when I first started my job hunting. I had a resume highlighting my transferrable skills and a cover letter that spoke to who I was, but I still wasn't getting the results I thought I should be getting. That all changed when I started including the link to my portfolio in my applications.

Breaking into a new field is hard because you don't have direct experience in the field and, no matter how much you try to sell yourself, somebody has to take a chance on you being able to do the actual work.

Having real examples of the work is an easy way to put the company or organization at ease. For me, that was including work I'd worked on in previous positions and, depending on the position, adding some of my personal work in there too.

My portfolio is full of writing samples, graphic design examples, strategy outlines, and other work that would directly relate to the positions I was applying for. And the gag is, some of it was purely made up to show that I could do the job. I was creating brochures for organizations that didn't exist, making logos for companies that weren't real, creating strategies for fake campaigns, and everything in between. Even if I didn't have the job yet, I was showing potential employers my skills.

With a portfolio, you also have the freedom to do a lot of things that maybe wouldn't be approved in a workplace. I was able to really dig into my creativity and display some of my out of the box approaches to the field. On top of that, things are constantly changing and being able to keep my skills fresh and up to date was super helpful when I finally secured the offers I wanted and started working again.

And the thing is... it was easy to create. My portfolio was simply a Google Drive folder that had a public link so anybody that clicked it could see it all. You don't have to do anything fancy like creating a website. Keep it nice and simple.

Portfolio screenshot
Screenshot of my actual portfolio

Once I started including my portfolio, I started getting more callbacks and even had interviewers reference things in my portfolio during interviews. I mean, the proof is in the pudding.

Everybody loves screaming about transferrable skills and they're essential, but you will stand out way more if you show them rather than just telling them 😉

So, take some time to look at the job descriptions and figure out what would be best to put in your portfolio. If you want to be a web designer, include links to websites you've built. If you want to be a social media manager, create an account specifically to showcase your work on the platform. If you want to be in finance, create some spreadsheet or budgets or something to show your skills. Admittedly, I don't know what finance people would actually do, but you get the point.

As an added bonus, adding a portfolio is a great way to get ahead of those dreaded interview assessments aka free labor that are becoming increasingly popular. Employers want to see what you can do before getting too deep into the interview process which is understandable, but asking people to work for free is not. Having a portfolio is my way to give real samples of my work without working for free just to get ghosted.....

Organize the Job Hunt

Job hunting can get hectic quick. Applying for dozens of jobs on a daily basis and trying to keep everything organized can be a lot. Before beginning, I took time to get my shit together and establish a system to keep all my things in order throughout the process.

There was no way I was going to remember all the companies and organizations I was applying to. All the different salaries, hiring timelines, position titles, interview dates and everything in between. Trying to keep all of that straight in my head would've been a recipe for disaster, okay?

This is where my super data driven and creative side made magic 🤝

I created my Job Application Tracker so everything I needed was in one place. This was my go to on a daily basis to see my progress in real time. I'm talking drop down menus, color coding, dates, and even charts so I could visualize my process. Yes, my spreadsheet is a beast and I learned a lot about Excel in the process.

Job Application Tracker Screenshot
Screenshot from my Job Application Tracker

In the span of just a couple months I'd applied to hundreds of positions... literally. My tracker allowed me to keep everything organized and for me to remember what I'd applied for. We all know that awkward moment when you get a callback and can't even remember what you applied for. This spreadsheet eliminated that for me completely. I updated it regularly and it truly became a lifesaver for me. I took care of it and it took care of me 😌

My Job Application Tracker coupled with my Interview Worksheet and Offer Checklist (both found in my Guide to Transitioning into Remote Work), I had all the resources I needed to successfully break into a new industry. And I did.

Be Honest and Realistic

Last, but definitely not least. This is a big one and something that is hard to really explain because it can be a hard pill to swallow. I've said it once and I'll continue to say it: Job hunting is not easy and is often a long game. There are no hacks to get around the need to have a high quality resume, a strong cover letter (even though this is becoming more and more controversial), interview skills, and filling out those applications. Let me be clear, you have to do the work.

My job hunting process took months. Read that again.

Job hunting will humble you with a quickness. I mean I literally went from traveling the world and working in different countries to making minimum wage at Chili's. It may not have been in my life plan, but that little restaurant job allowed me to continue to make money while giving me the time I needed to focus on my job hunt. I was determined to make my transition, but I was also realistic and honest with myself about what it would take to get it done.

Leaving Chili's with free food
Coming home with free food from work at Chili's

And that's not the only way this process will humble you. That interview you thought you killed? Yeah, you're never hearing from them again. The position you thought would be a perfect fit? You just got the rejection email in your inbox. That recruiter that said they had the perfect company for you? Yeah, they lied.

Look, the competition is fierce. People are no longer working at the same place for forty years and then retiring. We're following our passions. We're leaving toxic work places behind. We're doing what's best for us. Period.

With more and more people taking this approach, there are more people job hunting and looking to make major career moves. Being honest with yourself and realistic will allow you to manage expectations and not burn yourself out during the process.

In the beginning, realizing this was not going to be a quick job change was disheartening. I knew marketing and communications was where I thrived, but kept getting rejected, ghosted, and everything in between. Interviews became part of my weekly routine, but the offers weren't rolling in.

It took me really taking a step back, connecting with my mentor, and really focusing on building out my portfolio to set myself apart from the competition. This was not going to be an overnight success story, but the outcomes would be worth all the work and then some.

Now, I'm working in a new field, securing the bag, and enjoying the freedoms the come with working remotely full time.

Whew, that was a lot.

But so is job hunting 🙃

There are countless courses, masterclasses and webinars full of people promising you results tomorrow without putting in any real work... So many "How to land a remote job in two weeks..." going around the internet. The math is just not mathing and you end up disappointed and even more confused. Over here, I provide the tools and resources to get the results you want, but you have to do the work.

I'm not one of those sugar coating type of people. Imma keep it 100 with you from the jump. It took plenty of trial and error in my job hunt until I finally figured out what worked and now I'm giving you all the gems to do secure the bag just like I did. I spent the time doing shit wrong so you don't have to.

With the combination of my Guide to Transitioning into Remote Work, Job Application Tracker and the strategies outlined in this article, I was able to secure multiple offers in a brand new field through optimizing myself as a candidate and putting in the work..

No degrees. No certifications. No bootcamps. Period.

Jash on a bike
Enjoying my new flexibility in a new country

This shit is hard, but it's not impossible. Being location independent and working for organizations that aligned with my goals and who I am was essential so I made it happen. It required me to humble myself, ask for help, take a minimum wage job, accept rejection, and everything in between. But look at me now 🤩

I'm able to travel more. Work from anywhere. I have great insurance and it's not dependent on my parents anymore 🤣 Ya girl is living life and I want the same for you!

Let this be your sign to start putting in the work to make that transition for yourself into the lifestyle of your dreams. And don't forget my DMs are always open and I'm rooting for you 💪🏾

Drop any questions you have in the comments! I'm here to help 🙌🏾

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