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Ask the Genie: Engineer with MBA Seeks to Change Industries

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Changing industries is not easy, but it can be worth it.

Dear Genie,

I’m a 32-year-old aerospace manufacturing engineer (salary: $60,000 per year) with a recent MBA degree. I also began teaching technical management at a local university.

It’s time for a transition with my career and industry. Because of my leadership and communication skills, I’d like to switch from being an underappreciated engineer to a project, product, or functional manager. I’d also like to switch to another high-tech industry with more potential, such as consumer products, biotech, or pharmaceuticals.

Any hints? Does this sound doable? What do you think about these positions and industries? How should I proceed? How do you see my transferable marketability as well as salary potential?

Please respond with some of your famous insight.


Dear Roman:

You’re in a great position to make a career transition. First off, you’ve got the business skills an MBA confers. Second, you’ve got the track record as an engineer. Don’t sell yourself short: Surely you’ve managed projects before—even if not in a high-profile way.

That said, most things that are worthwhile in life take some trouble to achieve. Making a successful career transition requires determination, perseverance, and a firm knowledge of what you’re getting into and what your goals are.

Here’s how I’d go about it: First, figure out which industry you want to enter, determine what type of company you’d like to work for, and draw up a list of companies to target. Next, learn everything you can about the industry and the specific companies.

Various guides provide information on job opportunities, insider tips on getting hired, and an overview of industry trends. They’ll help you showcase your industry knowledge in your interviews, which is something recruiters eat up.

Once you choose the industry and where you’d most like to fit in, start networking. Even if you don’t know where your true interests lie, network anyway. It can’t hurt you to know people in an industry in which you might someday like to work. Use the alumni database at your business school to mine for contacts in your target industries. Take them out to lunch. Ask for an informational interview. And ask them for names of other people to talk to.

Remember: What you’re looking for in these interviews is more information—about opportunities, about company culture, about changes in the industry. Heck, ask about money, too—how much do they make? How much can you expect to make? (You’ll get compensation information by reading our publications. But you’ll get additional compensation information by talking to real people. Put this information together and you’ll have some good benchmarks for what you can expect to earn.

Use these interviews to refine your career objectives. And use them to identify the people who can hire you. You should also let your contacts know you’re looking and what your skills are. Will your skills transfer? Will they be valued more or less than they are in your current job? What do recruiters look for?

Often, companies pay employees a referral bonus for placing somebody, in which case it’s in their financial interest to help find good people. And, Roman, if you’re not good people, who is? Have that attitude but don’t be too proud to ask people for advice. You’ll be surprised how many doors will open for you.

My friend, good luck. Once you land your job, let us know how you’re doing.


Ask the Genie: Engineer with MBA Seeks to Change Industries by
Authored by: Granted Contributor