7 questions to ask yourself when selecting an industry for your next job

I’m a Java developer, was recently laid off, and am now in the process of looking for a new job. Is there a specific industry, such as retail, that you would suggest I concentrate on?

As IT professionals we belong to one of the few professions that can work in almost any industry. I’m sure I’m not surprising you by saying that there are IT people working in health care, financial services, biotech, retail, construction, manufacturing, and about every other industry you can think of.

Ok, now to your question, the answer is it depends. When trying to choose the best industry for you to work in, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do you have any non-IT experience in a specific industry? This experience could be of value because you will understand the software applications you are building from the user/business perspective.

2. Do you have any educational credential, such as a biology degree or a stock broker’s license that relates to a specific industry? Professional business-related credentials in your industry not only provides you with knowledge of the applications you are building, but it also helps give you professional credibility with those in the business-side of your company.

3. Is there a specific industry that is predominant in your geographical area? This is important information for you to know because it relates directly to your future marketability where you live. What you will find as your career progresses, and you move to more senior positions, it gets harder and harder to switch industries. For example, because my technical background is primarily financial services, I am much more professionally marketable within financial services than I am in, say, biotech or retail.

4. Is there an industry you like the most? My point here is that if there is an industry you really love, you might as well work in an industry that you find interesting.

5. Is there an industry where you have close, highly placed connections? Very often in business it’s not only what you know, but who you know. Having personal connections in your industry can be very valuable to you professionally.

6. Is there an industry where the software applications you have worked on in the past are in high demand? Depending on how long you have been professionally employed, the applications you have been working on in the past may be valued more in some industries than others. For example, if you have deep software development experience building patient billing systems for a hospital, this specialized experience will be most valued by the health care industry, somewhat valued within financial services, and less valued within manufacturing and biotech.

7. Is there an industry that your skills are particularly suited for? I know that you are a Java programmer, but beyond that, if your technical skills lean toward a specific area, such as mobile devices, real-time systems, website development, etc, these specific skills are more heavily valued and used in some industries more than others. In closing, at the end of the day any industry can provide you with a great professional IT career. The trick is to find an industry that you like, where your skills and strengths are appreciated, and where you are fairly compensated. If this is of value to you, I personally have two undergraduate degrees, one in accounting and one in computer systems. Professionally, I have spent the majority of my professional career working in IT within the financial services industry, and always on accounting and financial related systems. Over the years, even within the IT function, my background in accounting as been of great value to me because I was able to understand the business purpose of the software applications I was building.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to grow.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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