How to Start a New Career in an Emerging Industry

Genetic data engineer. Social media guru. Computer programming ninja. These aren’t your grandparent’s career titles.

50 years ago, we couldn’t have imagined a career that involved playing with human DNA, taking 3D images of internal organs, or sending 140-character messages out to an online audience of millions. But today, these are the jobs of the future, and some of the most exciting fields to get into.

Because they’re so new, however, there isn’t necessarily a clear path to these coveted careers. How can you become a social media manager, for example, when universities don’t offer degrees for this field (yet), and many companies are still deciding whether or not they want to hire one?

While it can be a little tricky, getting a job in a new or emerging career field can be easier than you think. Here’s how.

Get Certified
Because many emerging career fields are so new, universities and colleges are just starting to define a curriculum, as well as standards, that will help students succeed in these new industries.

In the meantime, a faster (and less expensive) route is to get a certification. Certifications and diplomas are offered in a wide range of emerging career options, from green building to web design to social media management. Studying for a certificate can be a great way to learn the basics of a new field (such as relevant strategies and software), while building upon the education you already have.

Find the Industry Experts
One of the great things about emerging industries is that everyone is eager to share information and help each other out. If you can find the thought leaders, entrepreneurs and revolutionaries who are spearheading the progress in your chosen field, you can gain valuable insight that will help you succeed.

Start on the web-chances are these thought leaders have websites, blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts. Find where they’re publishing their tips, tricks and insights and read them religiously. You can also seek out books, articles, studies or white papers they’ve written about the topic as well. The more you can educate yourself through their example and research, the better. (And best of all, most of this information is free.)

Use Your Experience
We’ll let you in on a little secret-most emerging career fields aren’t entirely new. They’re probably the natural evolution of a pre-existing career field resulting from advances in technology, changes in user demographics, and a variety of other factors. So while the social media industry may seem all shiny and brand new, it’s very closely related to the fields of journalism, marketing, communications and public relations.

The good news for you is that, because new fields are rooted in already-established careers, you can use your knowledge to help you enter that new field. If you’re a graphic designer, for example, you might be a natural at web design and development, while HVACR technicians could easily transition into a career in solar panel installation and repair. Think about the experience you already have, and how you can segue that into one of today’s emerging careers. Once you figure out where you want to be, see our first tip: get a certification to secure the additional skills you need to succeed.

Build a Portfolio
In a new field, a solid portfolio can speak louder than any degree or previous work experience. And by portfolio, we’re not just talking to artists and photographers; we’re talking building concrete evidence of your knowledge of the new field you want to enter. In other words, if you want to become an information architect, help design and build a website. If you want to become a green builder, help retrofit an old building. If you want to become a blogger, start a blog.

A good way to get started is to volunteer your services to an organization that needs help, such as a non-profit or community organization. Track your progress, and make sure you keep statistics on project cost, development, and success rates. Showing you can build an energy efficient classroom looks great to a future boss; showing you decreased energy use throughout the school by 50 percent, savings thousands of dollars each year, looks even better.

Network, Network, Network
Through social media outlets like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, it’s easier than ever to get in touch with, and stay in touch with, old colleagues and co-workers. Find someone from your past (or present) who’s working in the field you want to enter, make a lunch or coffee date, and pick their brain. Networking will not even give you valuable insight into entering a new career, but it may also help you find your next job.

About the Author

Noel Rozny writes the bi-weekly career blog myPathfinder for the myFootpath website. myFootpath is a resource to help you in your search for a college, degree program, career, graduate school, and non-traditional experiences. Visit myFootpath to start your college or degree program search.