Walter Mitty was an interesting guy. Although he did one thing in his real life, he had the opportunity to do lots of exciting things in his imaginary life.
As we advance in our careers, I think all of us want the opportunity to do new and different things. It is only normal to want to change industries or change careers. And, many of us actually succeed in doing it. For example, I am doing something very different in my second career.
I hope that no one will read this editorial and think I am trying to discourage anyone. Hopes and dreams, however, have to be measured against the economic reality of your value to a potential employer.
I don’t think anyone in The FENG would want brain surgery performed by a cardiologist, or a heart transplant performed by a brain surgeon. Even if the respective surgeon were quite skilled, they clearly aren’t skilled in the areas we expect. And, there is simply too much at stake. So what, we might say, if they are bored with their careers and want to do something different. We want someone who had done it over and over again.
The same thing is true of employers. If you are a Treasurer and you would like to be a CFO, late in your career the odds are probably low. The only exception would be a corporation where the CFO responsibilities were primarily treasury in nature. (So if you want to make such a switch, this is where to focus your energies.)
There is a great effort in the resumes I see to blur the lines. To in effect make generic the very specific knowledge and experience we have had. In presenting your background you need to be careful not to destroy the very value you are trying to create. You can’t be all things to all people no matter how hard you try.
Since the most recent 5 years of your career are the most important and you may have worked for smaller companies during this time, be sure to indicate the nature of their business. Then in the accomplishments section you can describe what you have done in terms that are understandable to industry outsiders. This in effect cures the problem.
You will find that if you are successful in changing industries it will be because there is a reasonable link across skill sets in your new industry.
For those faced with changing industry I always recommend using your well worn electronic copy of The FENG membership directory to find folks from your current industry and see what they are planning to do. Chances are if you want to change industries, many of them do as well.
No sense reinventing the wheel. It would just take time away from our Walter Mitty life.