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An Introduction To Executive Career Transitions

An Introduction To Executive Career Transitions

“Our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”

—M. Scott Peck

You’ve built a career, logged years of experience as an exec, built strong relationships and connections, but still, something isn’t right. You’re feeling unfulfilled and it’s time to make a change. Thankfully, these days changing industries as an executive isn’t impossible.  

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, changing industries so far along in your career is a high stakes game that can be either richly rewarding or disastrously consequential.  Still, as noted American Psychiatrist and Author M. Scott Peck says above, our finest moments often come in times of strife.

So, if you need to make the jump to a new career, have no fear, your introduction is here:

Pros and Cons

Before you even think of starting a career change it’s a good idea to make an honest list of pros and cons. The list should include everything from the people you will work with, to the office environment, office location, company/industry perks, compensation, and work hours. 

You might also want to take a look at quality companies in your area. For example, Fortune magazine publishes a list of the top 100 companies to work for in the nation. Or if you want to get more specific to your local area companies like Best Companies AZ, provide quality lists of the best employers and occupations on a statewide basis.

Make An Action Plan

When making a career transition this far into your career you won’t be getting recruited like you once were. Instead, you will need to be proactive and make a plan that can set you on the path to your new job. 

Your plan should include a timeline of how you want your career transition to go and steps to gain relevant skills. Remember to use “SMART” Goals. These are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound objectives.

Get A Second Opinion

Before making any type of career leap it’s important to get a few second opinions. Ask your family, friends, colleagues, and mentors what they think. Show them your list of pros and cons and your action plan. Ask them to give you an honest assessment and really listen. 


According to Amanda Augustine, a career management expert:

“The higher up you are on the corporate ladder, the more likely you are to find your next job opportunity through a networking connection versus an online posting.”

This is where it pays to be an executive. You have been in the game for decades, use all your contacts. Don’t be afraid to call in favors and let people know what your plan is for your career. Linkedin is a great start, but you need to be as proactive as possible in connecting with people inside your desired industry. 

That can mean joining PTA board, non-profit organizations, or anything that can help you connect with people within your desired industry.

Improve Your Skills

There are a number of ways to improve your skills in 2020 without having to go back to school. For example, leadership training can be a great tool to improve your management skills and also acts as a resume booster that shows employers you are always willing to learn.

It can also pay to gain industry-specific skills through certification courses. For example, if you are making a move into finance or business journalism it may pay to get the Bloomberg Market Concepts certification.

No matter the industry, however, it is always a good idea to gain relevant skills and improve the ones you already have.

Don’t Be Afraid To Take One Step Back

Career expert Kerry Hannon recently told Forbes age discrimination is alive and well in the workplace. For someone making a later career transition, this is something you should be aware of. 

Often, in life and our careers, we are forced to take one step back before we can take the road forward. When transitioning to a new career this is often what will happen. As you enter your new industry you will undoubtedly be forced to take a step back. Less responsibility, less to do, but far, far more to learn. Trust the process, keep learning and you will be rewarded.

Contact an Executive Recruiter

If all else fails, it may be time to contact an executive recruiter. Executive recruiters most likely won’t be reaching out to you, because of your lack of industry experience, but that doesn’t mean you can’t submit your resume and show your interest to recruiters. Many times recruiters are looking for very specific qualifications, when in reality your out of the box skills may be just what their client needs, so don’t be afraid to make your interest known. 

Give Your New Career A Real Chance

Before you judge your new career, give it a real chance. That means when your children, significant other, friends or parents ask you how things are going. Maybe reply with something like “I don’t know yet.” It takes time to figure out whether your career transition was the right move, don’t be too anxious to judge. 

Changing industries as an executive can be a stressful proposition. Still, nothing is impossible if you are willing to put in the effort. You will surely face age discrimination, skill gaps, and doubters, but if you are dedicated you can make your career transition a reality.

Brian Brown

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