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How to Get Started in a New Industry When you Have No Experience

Whether you're in career reinvention or an early career professional, the challenge is the same; you need to figure out how to break into a new role that you do not have professional experience in yet. Here are my top suggestions to help you create your own experience.  
    1. Understand the role of the job. Gain a clear understanding of the role and function of the position you are seeking. Research the qualifications of the positions you are interested in. Note the required and desired candidate qualifications to identify functional skills required of the job. Keep a swipe file of your research.  
    2. Understand the operations and backend. What knowledge, skills, and resources do they use to do their work? Why do they do what they do? What problems are they solving? Who are they solving problems for? What are their challenges and pain points? 
    3. Think strategically. Identify the goals and strategies of the industry, organizations, and teams that operate within. Understand their peers and competition. Understand their culture as an industry and as an organization. Understand their goals for the future. Identify the gaps to getting to their goals. Identify steps and actions required to achieve those goals.
    4. Identify your skill gaps. Now that you have done your market research and analyzed the ins and outs of the industry and jobs, you can develop a clear understanding of where your skills gaps lie. Create a list of these gaps and start targeting them by priority and demand. Cross reference job qualifications and responsibilities with your skills gaps and get to work. You can take non-traditional classes aimed at skill building using Coursera, Udemy, Lynda and various other sources. You can also begin targeting projects that will help you gain knowledge and skills in the areas you are lacking.
    5. Create your experience. Work on a project, create your own project, or both. Seek out projects that will give you the skills and knowledge of the industry and roles you are interested in. Create a portfolio of your work, outcomes, and testimonials that demonstrate and substantiate your credibility. 
    6. Define your value. Determine how you can add value to the position and the organization. You now have a lot of good research and intelligence about the inner and outer workings of the career you are interested in. You will begin getting training and certifications. You will begin building your own experience, which you will add to your portfolio and resume. This will help you to more clearly and confidently articulate your value and skills as you enter into a new direction in your career.
    7. Board of advisors. Create an intentional personal board of advisors. There are several ways to do this. 1. Identify personal connections and friends who you can call on to answer questions or offer guidance in specific areas. 2. Join groups where similar professionals congregate and discuss industry issues; both online and in real time. Linkedin is a great place for professional groups. I have seen many professional groups on Facebook as well. 3. Seek out and attend industry conferences and workshops where you will gain not only education and information, but also connection with other industry professionals and leaders. 

Kristen is the Founder of Career CoLabs, a career counseling practice that provides career management services to people globally through career advisor guided online programs and in offices throughout the country.
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