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Switching Occupation or Industry

Job hunting during a recession may require some creative thinking.

Whether you've been in the same job for many years or have worked in several fields, a layoff can be a good time to think about switching either the new occupation or industry.

What’s the difference between an occupation and an industry?

Your occupation is what you do. Your industry is where you do it. For example, receptionist is an occupation that can be found in most industries, such as health care, manufacturing, or financial services. An industry like health care doesn't just employ receptionists. It also employs people in other occupations like doctors, nurses, technicians, and janitors.


Option 1: Stay in the Same Occupation and Same Industry

Do you want to look for a job in your current or most recent occupation or industry? Then start your job search by checking out these Job Search Tips.


Option 2: Move to the Same Occupation in a Different Industry

For example, a receptionist can move from working for an auto manufacturing firm to a hospital. Consider the following:

  • Consider a more stable industry. No industry is completely recession-proof. Still, jobs in health care, education, and other human service fields are less subject to economic downturns. The demand for human services doesn’t stop during a recession.

  • Transfer your skills. If you were a clerk in the auto manufacturing industry, can you jump to being a clerk in a hospital or school? Maybe. The key is to understand your skills in general terms and know how they might transfer. See What Are Your Skills? for more information.

  • Market yourself. During times of high unemployment, employers can be choosy about who they hire. Be sure to explain how your experience in a different industry translates into real value for a prospective employer. Visit CareerOneStop's Resumes + Interview section for tips on how to tailor your resume and cover letter for each job opening.

  • Research the trends. View employment trends by occupation and industry. This will give you a feel for which industries employ people with your background and skills.

Option 3: Move to a Different Occupation in the Same Industry

For example, a receptionist working in a hospital can apply for a medical transcriptionist position in the same or a different hospital. Get started exploring this option with these tips:

  • Assess your skills. Visit What Are Your Skills? to explore how you can move easily from one occupation to another.

  • Find related occupations. If you are thinking of switching occupations, you should research which occupations can make the best use of your skills. Visit mySkills myFuture to find occupations that use skills similar to your previous job.

  • Network. Networking can be especially effective if you’re looking for a different occupation in the same industry. Your contacts may know each other and can communicate easily. Get tips on networking.

  • Learn about the salary range in your new occupation. Check out CareerOneStop's Salary Tool.


Option 4: Move to a Different Occupation in a Different Industry

For example, a receptionist working in a hospital decides to find a job as an animal groomer for a local pet store. If you're interested in a whole new career, be sure to explore all your options. Since your job search is taking you in a completely new direction, it’s best to take a step back and explore careers in many occupations and industries. Here are some things to consider:

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