Tips for Switching Industries as a CIO

3 minutes read
on 22 October, 2017

Tips for Switching Industries as a CIO

For many CIO’s a job search can evoke feelings of trepidation because of the belief that if you want to switch industries the cards are stacked against you. Old school thinking may have suggested that IT leadership roles transferred across industries and searches did not have to be limited to candidates within the same industry. Now, however, there is a tendency toward specialized backgrounds that can limit to some extent how well of a fit you’re perceived as being for a particular organization.

To that point, as IT recruiter Martha Heller points out, CIOs switch industries all the time. She points to the example of Dave Smoley leaving Flextronics to become CIO of AstraZeneca, and Oliver Bussman moving from financial services to SAP. Even still, Heller says that an increasing number of her clients are looking for CIOs who have spent several years in their own industry.

But what if you’re a CIO that’s sick and tired of your own industry and you’re serious about making a move to another industry? Here are few ways to think about your approach to your job search that may help you sidestep preferred qualifications and move into a new area of IT.

Concentrate your search on late adopters

If you’ve recently spearheaded a project that involved a major rollout of BYOD on transferring to cloud-based operations, then look for companies outside of your industry that may have plans to do something similar in the future.  In this case, they may see more value in your recent experience leading projects that they have coming down the pike than your lack of expertise in their particular industry.

Talk to vendors about the industries with which they partner

Find out from your vendors about opportunities in the industries they work with. For example, if you have significant experience in deploying mobile applications for enterprise, find out from your mobility vendors about new industries they are looking to expand within and follow suit in your job search efforts.

Build bridges/Find or create similarities

If you’re a CIO in the healthcare field and you’re looking to move to financial services, it may be a good idea to transition into health insurance, before seeking out a position in financial services. It requires less of a jump in the minds of those who will be evaluating your qualifications. And consider the fact that although retail, food service and travel may be quite different, they are all consumer-focused. Emphasize your consumer background, as you work to make the leap between consumer-focused industries. But remember that if you’re a hospital CIO who wants to work in banking, you’re making a big leap. You might be better off joining a health insurance company for a few years first, and then make the more subtle move from insurance to banking.

Consider taking on pro bono work

If you have the time, another tactic is to consider doing pro bono work for a charitable organization, foundation, associations, or trade group within the industry to which you’d like to transition. Taking on these types of projects will help you build relationships within the industry and gain helpful knowledge that will make you a more attractive candidate.