How to find a job in a new field when you don’t have sector-specific experience

Careers expert Emma Louise O’Brien from Renovo provides some useful advice if you are looking to change into a specific sector, but have no previous experience of working in it.

Fish changing its bowl


How do you find a job in a new field, when you don’t have experience? Changing direction can be challenging for most, but if you have an idea of what energises you and the skills you want to use, you have a starting point. The next step is how you articulate this experience and approach your target audience.

Skills-based CV

For online applications, you will find that a functional CV will serve you best as this helps draw upon your knowledge and experience both inside and outside of work and knowledge gained from your qualifications. You can tailor the functional CV by focussing on three to four areas of expertise the job specification requires as headings and including examples of relevant responsibilities and achievements underneath each one.

So, for instance, if your interest is around Research & Analysis, Policy Making and Health and Nutrition these can form the headings on your CV. Mention transferable experience gained via any earlier career or qualifications.  The focus is less on your career history but more on your transferable skills. If you use this format of CV you can detail your knowledge and understanding of the area from personal interests as well as your qualifications.


Some industries will have been particularly affected by the pandemic. It is worth investigating how they have had to become more resourceful with their services over the last year and mentioning any ideas or skills that could support them. It might be worth looking locally at how companies have changed their offering and perhaps approaching them proactively with a cover email and your functional CV. Being proactive in today’s market is crucial, especially if you are changing direction. Recruitment can be costly and if you lack work experience in your chosen field there is a risk attached to hiring someone outside of the industry. Over 70% of opportunities are secured through the hidden job market so it is essential to be innovative in your approach to differentiate yourself from your competition.

Expand your network

Networking is the proactive process of building and maintaining relationships and contacts that you already have to help you identify new work opportunities. Talk to people you know both professionally and personally about the roles that they do. If you have done a course, get in touch with your study cohort – chances are they are in your target industry and can help you identify opportunities. They might know someone they can introduce you to. You never know who the people are who can support you the most in times of career change.

Engage on social media

Make sure you are fully engaged with social media. Consider blogs, vlogs and instagram pages to follow and groups of people around relevant topics linked to the field you want to join. People with similar interests might be able to open up opportunities. These platforms are also a great way to keep up to date with latest trends, so follow and share interesting posts and engage with discussions. Don’t forget to optimise your own profile to make your own presence on social media stand out.

LinkedIn will be a hugely valuable source too. Use it to do some research about your target industry and the professionals working within it. Joining LinkedIn Groups is a great place to get to know others working in the industry, and many industry events are currently being held virtually. By interacting with others and sharing articles and thoughts, you can strike up conversations and build relationships with professionals in your target sector.

*Emma Louise O’Brien is an award-winning career coach from Renovo, a specialist provider of outplacement and career transition support.

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