Career Transition

The 3 Step Career Plan to Escape a Dying Industry (and move into a job you love)

career plan

Years ago, it made sense to have a five-year plan for your career and stick with it. But now, thanks to technological disruption in many industries, sticking with a plan you make in 2015 could lead you down the wrong path by 2020.

Many fields are changing so quickly that it’s hard to plan more than two or three years ahead.

Still, operating with no plan for your career at all can lead to poor decisions. If you are refocusing on your career plans now that summer is over, here is a career planning process that will help you–no matter how much change comes to your industry.

  1. Evaluate Your Goals Annually.

If your ultimate dream has been to make it to the C-suite at your firm or make partner by 2020, you don’t necessarily have to toss out that goal because your industry is changing. But set aside time for some serious thinking once a year to re-evaluate it. Ask yourself some key questions: Have there been any changes in my company, my industry or my life that make my goal less appealing than in the past—or is it still what I want? Have better opportunities outside my company or industry emerged? If so, what goal would be the best one for me in five years?

Then set a one-year goal that will help you take a critical step toward achieving your renewed—or revised—five-year goal. For instance if your goal is to become chief financial officer, perhaps there is one key relationship you need to solidify this year, such as your relationship with the firm’s CEO. List three to five steps you can take to achieve that goal and start keeping a log of how you have worked on them each week.

  1. Uncover New Opportunities.

When you do your annual career planning, consider the health of your industry and whether you should stick with your current field or transfer your skills to a new industry. For instance, if you do marketing in the apparel industry, which is in decline, now could be a good time to start to reposition yourself to do marketing for firms in an industry that is growing.

Set aside an hour to take a look at the latest research on fast-growing industries for ideas. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes a list of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S. If you are looking for an industry with more opportunities to contribute your skills, this list can be a great source of ideas. Also check out reports published by IBISWorld, a market research firm that studies many industries. It publishes many reports on where the opportunities are in today’s economy such as The Evolution of US Industry.

  1. Put Your Plan Into Action.

If you have decided to move into a fast-growing field where there is more opportunity, create a six-month game plan for how to make the switch. Even if the skills required in your target field aren’t much different from the ones you need now, there may be some industry-specific knowledge you need to pivot successfully into a new field.

Create a short document where you first identify what knowledge you need. Then pinpoint the steps you need to take to acquire it. Do you need to take a class, attend a conference or arrange informational interviews to get up to speed and meet contacts who can help you make the transition? Once you’ve decided what steps are essential, create a schedule where you tackle one task that moves you forward every week. You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish in six months—as long as you have a plan.

About the Author

Elaine Pofeldt is an independent journalist who specializes in writing about entrepreneurship and careers. She was a senior editor for Fortune Small Business magazine, and her work has appeared in Fortune, Money,, Inc. and Crain's New York Business, among others.