Son Of Sun Tzu blog

Son Of Sun Tzu blog

They keep saying my audience will find me…

29 Jan 2023

An old man's advice on how to break into a new industry

Recently on the Generalist World Slack channel, another member asked me advice about entering a new industry. I thought through some fairly standard “old man” advice - moving professions isn’t one of my areas of expertise, but I’ve seen enough and read enough to get an idea of what can improve your chances of success. So, with the other member’s permission, I’ve posted a modified version of my advice below, so I can cite it in future, and in case you find it useful:

  • It’s a cliche, and the fact that it’s true annoys me, but as someone said “the harder I work the luckier I get”. Do put effort into applying for positions, and finding connections to make, and more effort than you think you’ll need.
  • Do adopt a mindset of “blind persistence” - looking at this aim in general, especially for finding employment - that’s a difficult task that may involve being rejected repeatedly. Also, all your feedback is a “lagging indicator”, you’ll get relatively little information on what to try next, most of the feedback you receive will be jobs you didn’t get, conferences you went to that didn’t generate useful connections, that kind of thing. So you have to bring a lot of optimism to everything you try, it might be the next job application that makes everything work out, but the clearest way to tell is to try.
  • As a complete counter to the previous point - know when to quit. I can’t imagine that you won’t find a place to fit in, especially as it’s such an emerging industry, and connects to so many other fields. Do ask for feedback on every single application that doesn’t succeed, that way if you just don’t have the right background, or the sectors you’re aiming for are too discriminatory, this is the best way to find out. Be persistent, and persistently optimistic, but set yourself a point - three months, 26 failed job applications, that kind of thing - where you’ll take a step back and review what you’re doing, and if you should keep doing it.
  • Similarly - you can forestall any significant issues finding out about the parts of the industry you’re interested in by talking to people, and also many industries hire based on connections - there are many vague but useful benefits on just being a part of the right forums and organisations.

And one more, off the back of a separate conversation elsewhere:

  • Regard yourself as already working in the industry you’re in, even if someone hasn’t been fortunate enough to hire you yet. An unpublished writer with manuscripts to submit is still a writer, and part of that industry - think of yourself in the same way.

I don’t know if this is genuinely wise or useful, it all feels kind of obvious, but the best way for me to find out is to put this out there and see what people think.