How Can I Transition to a New Field?

Industry experts give advice on how to make this change as seamless as possible
Industry Matters Newsletter
Kara KasaKaitas, Director, Recruitment and University Relations, Aegis Sciences Corporation
Kara KasaKaitas, Director, Recruitment and University Relations, Aegis Sciences Corporation

As someone who started out in an analytical chemist position and transitioned into HR/Recruiting, I can speak to this first-hand. While it was helpful to have the chemistry knowledge to recruit for chemists, there were other transferrable skills that I was able to bring to the table.

In recruiting, sourcing candidates uses my internet research skills, evaluating salaries uses my math skills, and the experience of writing SOPs (standard operating procedures) has been utilized often. One other thing to keep in mind is that you may have to move to an entry-level role to go into a new field and work your way up. Transitioning to a new field can be scary at first, but as I learned, very rewarding!

Transitioning to a new field requires observation and inquiry at its heart. You need to re-frame the basics within the context of the new field, and apply your existing knowledge as needed to make connections. The fundamentals of the universe always apply, thinking critically and causally about a problem will point you in the right direction.

Remember there is no award for struggling on your own to learn something, and nobody becomes great in a vacuum. Building competency in any area takes time, reach out to others and take advantage of the resources in your network to learn as much as you can about your new field. 

Marciano Bagnoli, Quality Manager, Georgia-Pacific LLC
Marciano Bagnoli, Quality Manager, Georgia-Pacific LLC
Moji Bonakdar, Senior Director, Chemical Medicines, USP
Moji Bonakdar, Senior Director Chemical Medicines, USP

There are a few steps you can take to transition to a new field. Start by identifying your transferable skills. There are many skills that can be applied to several different fields. The only difference is the context. 

Consider these questions: Why do I want this? How and why do I believe this new career can benefit me? What are the possible risks of transitioning to a new field?

Start by getting some education in the new field you’re trying to break into. Take classes at your local library, school library, or online on LinkedIn Learning or YouTube. Volunteer and apply for an internship in your new field. Make connections with people you might know who work in this new field. Networking is essential.

The first step is to find a good expert or mentor in the field and set up regular meetings with them (sometimes just quick breaks or lunches together) to learn more directly from them. 

If you still find yourself interested in the area, then start with developing collaborations that can bridge your current field with that one (R&D projects are great opportunities) or see if you could provide assistance (or have a temporary assignment) in that area of the company, especially if that's during a lighter time in your existing schedule

Adam Myers, Associate Director, Chromatography & Drug Performance at SSCI
Adam Myers, Associate Director, Chromatography & Drug Performance at SSCI

This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

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