If you’re an expert in a given field, it’s natural that you take pride in what you do. After all, years of hard work and study have positioned you in your niche, and you know how to do your job well. However, changes are part of anyone’s career, and it’s best to not pigeonhole yourself into a narrow category. Here are job hunting tips to help you branch out of your comfort zone, whether it’s necessary or you’re looking to take on new roles and responsibilities.
How to Pivot Out of a Niche Career
If your company is restructuring or downsizing, the search beyond your niche is obviously out of your control. However, even in this scenario, you can honestly assess your talents, and look ahead to new opportunities. What makes you an expert in your given role? Look at the tools that make up your job. Can they be applied to new areas? For example, if you’re an expert in accounting, it’s not just numbers: you’re proficient in organization, spreadsheets, and time management. Look at your job as a tree with branches, not just a singular trunk.
Be open to learning.
Even if you have a decade’s worth of experience in your career, switching to new areas, even if they’re less intensive, will require at least a little acclimation, if not outright learning new skills. But look back to your beginnings: you learned your expertise, and you’ll be able to learn how to take on new requirements. This is not a downgrade, and will make you much more attractive to recruiters and hiring committees. An ability to do well in a niche area translates into an ability to specialize in areas you didn’t think you’d be taking on.
Avoid tunnel vision.
Change happens, and even if you love your field you may find yourself in a situation where you simply can’t afford to latch onto a narrow job description. The best businesses thrive on change, and their employees should be no different. Of course, the idea of staying within your role for the long haul is appealing, and you may have put yourself on track to do just that; but don’t be afraid to look elsewhere. Don’t be afraid to tackle new responsibilities. It can be scary at first, but ultimately, it’s exhilarating, and even dipping below an expert level in one area can make you more attractive as a candidate if you’re able to move among different responsibilities.
Ask yourself why you’re looking for a change.
If moving to a new career or role within a company is your choice, assess why you want to leave your niche. Are you looking for something new? Do you feel stuck within your role? Transitioning to a less specialized job is not a sign of weakness, or a lack of motivation. In fact, you might be taking on more responsibilities, even if the duties aren’t your area of expertise. Instead of focusing on one area, you might be looking for variety in your career. Once you’ve asked yourself why, and have clear answers, you’ll be that much more prepared to convey your goals.
Understand the hiring climate.
Looking for more generalized work during a time of pandemics and uncertainty is new to a lot of people, and few job hunting tips are focused on this. But being patient and understanding that certain jobs are in flux, or not in demand, will help you, even if it’s frustrating. In the worst case scenario, your specialty needs to absorb new demands; it’s not easy, but focusing on your other skills, and knowing you can adapt to new environments is essential. Being forced to look for new career paths is stressful, even in the best of times. But from a professional and emotional point of view, being optimistic about what you’re capable of will elevate you to more opportunities. Yes, you’ve taken pride in your expertise; now how can you mold it to new roles? Look back at your previous interviews; you very likely pitched yourself as someone who can tackle challenges head-on. Now is the time when you’re putting this belief to work for yourself.
Assess what you bring to the table already.
Ideally, you’d like to use your previous skills, or perhaps move into an almost-similar career as you had before. However, that’s not always possible. Your niche skills are specialized, but you can absolutely use them as a selling point for your new role. For example, if your specialty was management, you can use those skills to oversee people in different environments. The output might be different, but the blanket skills are the same. And at the very least, you know how to adapt to new work spaces; you did so when you took on your previous role.
What better way to practice going out of your comfort zone than to start networking beyond your current ? Look up people in your new industries, either via LinkedIn, social media, or through any contacts you already have. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions. More often than not, people are happy to share their experiences, even if they don’t have insider tips on your new niche. Look at your current professional circle: does anyone you know, or currently work with, have experience in other fields? How did they make their own transitions? While you should absolutely pride yourself on your own expertise and research, there’s no shame in approaching others who know more than you do about the new field. The only way to prepare yourself is to listen, hear what others have to say, and in the process, expand your network. Put yourself out there as someone who wants to learn.
Know Your Talents
You’re a professional. Anyone looking at your resume will know your skills, and will understand that you can bring a lot to the new environments. Whether by choice or by issues out of your control, you’re still looking for more generalized work, but you have the experience to back it up. Sell your talents, and know exactly how they can fit into your new career path. Expertise in one area means you’re willing to put in the time to become an expert elsewhere.
Most importantly: your previous expertise will not just disappear. It will merely become another tool you can use to thrive in new areas. Even if you don’t return to your previous role, you still have an entire career’s worth of experience to help you take on your new job, and will prepare you for other changes that may arise in your professional life down the line.