Switching Industries: A Personal Story on How to Do it Successfully

Are you thinking of switching industries but are afraid it may mean, “starting over”? Think again! I did it and it gave a great boost to my career! Read on!

Switching industries is among the reasons why 34% of LinkedIn users, globally, make changes in their careers, according to a 2015 global survey by LinkedIn.  Not too long ago I was among this cohort of people who wanted to switch industries.

Think of the process of switching industries as the process of researching for a major purchase

Think of the process of switching industries as the process of researching for a major purchase

Before switching industries, I worked in beauty

I spent ten years working in beauty before I made an industry switch to pharma. First, I started with a marketing consulting job within advanced analytics in which I measured the payback of marketing dollars spent on fine fragrances. Less than two years later, I was recruited by Avon as one of the first associates to join their newly established market research function.

The majority of my beauty career was at Avon, where I spent eight years, which is unheard of for anyone considered a “millennial,” even an older millennial like myself. Within those eight years I didn’t switch industries (or companies for that matter,) because I realized Avon was fertile ground for me to gain the skills needed to be competitive in the marketplace. I had the chance to learn from colleagues with backgrounds that spread across all kinds of industries, from food and beverage, beauty, consumer goods, and so on, who came from much revered organizations such as Kraft, P&G, Unilever, and Pepsi.

I had the opportunity to work on whitespace projects for marketing, global advertising, be the co-Chair of Avon’s Latino Network, travel globally and domestically. My clock started ticking at the eight year mark, so I continued my career at another beauty company, Coty, Inc.

After ten years in the beauty industry my clock started clicking. I needed to change industries to grow.

After ten years in the beauty industry my clock started clicking. I needed to change industries to grow.

I received very positive reviews during my time at Coty. So once I proved to myself I could succeed there, I started thinking about how to strengthen my career and stretch myself beyond my experience in research and beauty. I took a closer look at the senior executives around me, and those with whom I had worked with at Avon and I noticed a common thread. They all had very diverse backgrounds. There was not a single executive who had spent their entire career in one industry, one market, or one function.

I suddenly had a major aha moment: I needed to think about switching industries.

I decided to explore opportunities and came across a post for “Healthy Appearance” at Pfizer. The role focused on the functional skills of Consumer Insight professionals and noted skin care experience preferred. A few days after submitting my application and resume through Pfizer’s portal, I received an email from Human Resources which kicked-off a series of interviews.

Here's a great post on interview tips for when that time comes!
There a several aspects to consider before switching industries

There a several aspects to consider before switching industries

Key steps to switching industries 

1Before you switch industries, start with doing your research.

Think about how you would approach a major purchase such as a car. When we are in the market for a new car we typically research certain brands. Our exploration consists of extensive online searches, discussions with close friends and probing our extended network on social media. When you consider switching industries you should apply the same approach. Define what industries you’d like to explore and seek information around:

  • What’s going on in the industry? Get information such as, market share or ranking of the top competitors, the trends within the industry and how companies are responding. Dig deeper to understand what’s working well for the company and what have they identified as areas of opportunity. A good source for this is a company’s annual and quarterly earnings reports. This is public information.
  • Once you have identified the companies you’d like to apply for, look into their philosophy on talent development. A key signal that helped me determine whether a company fostered development of their associates was whether they had an Employee Resource Groups (ERG.) Keep in mind Fortune 500 companies may have ERGs/BRGs, but this might be less common in small to mid-size companies.  In this case, lean on online reviews and conversations with people in the network to get a sense of their talent development policies.
  • Use LinkedIn to browse through the profile of people who share your job function and role within the industry you want to change to. We often think switching to a new industry will require starting at a lower position. While this varies by industry, you will likely find out that you and your counterparts in other industries share a large skillset. Also, keep in mind, companies sometimes want an ‘outsider’ who can bring fresh ideas and new ways of doing things.
As with all major things in life, expanding your network can be very useful when you think of changing industries

As with all major things in life, expanding your network can be very useful when you think of changing industries

2Stepping out of your comfort zone to make connections is part of the process of switching industries

  • LinkedIn should be the top app in your phone during this process. The goal is to identify people who are currently employed or formerly employed by companies within your industry of interest. If your connections are limited then begin exploring 2nd and 3rd level connections on LinkedIn and see if a mutual contact can introduce you. If you have zero degrees of connections then upgrade to LinkedIn’s premium package so you can message the professionals you’re interested in reaching. In your initial message briefly introduce yourself, and kindly ask for 10-15 minutes of their time to get their perspective on the industry. Let them know you are considering opportunities in their industry and/or their company. You may have to follow-up a few times before you hear back. If this happens, don’t get discouraged. Also, take a look at the organizations that your industry of interest is associated with or supports. Perhaps there are events you can attend to make connections.
  • When I applied to Pfizer, I immediately began to search within my network and expanded network to identify people to talk to. During this process I remembered that two years before I was connected to someone in pharma via email by a mutual acquaintance. Back then, the individual wanted feedback from me on a research project she was leading. She was looking for diversity of thinking from several industries to maximize her initiative. I was on her list! Fast forward two years, I remembered this occasion and wrote to her a brief note reminding her of our past exchange and voilà! I had a new contact who could give me industry insights.
  • At this stage of the process, keep in mind that the purpose is not for the individuals you connect with to get you a job, (though that could be a very nice outcome!) The purpose of this process is for you to get context about the industry and to get sense of the industry language. As you may know, there are nuances to each industry. The more you speak the industry lingo, the more likely it is that others will see you as a good fit.
Expanding your network to include men, is critical for career growth
Get context and insights on the industry you're considering to change to

Get context and insights on the industry you’re considering to change to

3Put it all together and re-frame your resume to better position yourself for the new industry

Now that you have taken the time to understand the industry you want to switch to, take a moment to determine what all of the information means for you. What changes, if any, do you need to make to your resume and on your LinkedIn profile to better position yourself?

Take stock of your skills and identify which ones are transferrable to the roles you are interested in. Amplify the skills that are foundational to your role and provide examples of how you used them to impact the business. Each function (i.e. marketing, accounting, finance, etc.) has skills that are considered fundamental. These fundamental skills do not change industry to industry and they are transferable.

For example, in the world of market research a foundational skill is the ability to synthesize custom and syndicated data. So, in my resume I provided concrete examples on how I did this globally and regionally to drive business impact. Just like these, you can easily transfer skills such as ability to influence, communicate, and problem solve. They are the cornerstones of any position.

The thought of switching industries may seem daunting. I will admit doing the work upfront to be better positioned for a new industry takes time and can be a challenging process. But look, if you’re ready to turbo charge your career and you’re ready to explore changing industries, I say go for it wholeheartedly. It took me several rounds of interviews and at the end, I was hired! And now that I’m involved with Advil, the global best-selling over-the-counter pain medication, I can honestly tell you it was worth every minute of preparation.


How to Manage Gen Y Staff: One Thing You Didn’t Expect

Managing Millennials is not a simple task. Read on to discover the one thing you didn’t expect on how to manage Gen Y staff!

The story of the Red Shoe Movement is not logical. I didn’t sit down to think about what the Red Shoe Movement was going to be or how we would become a valuable professional development platform. (Much less how to manage Gen Y staff!) When I first blurted out the idea at my book launch and then on national TV, I had no clue what we were going to do. I just knew it was due time for a women supporting women platform geared to Latinas and other multicultural women.

Book Presentation at McNally Jackson boostore: Find Your Inner Red Shoes, by Mariela Dabbah | Find Your Inner Red Shoes book presentation

Book Presentation at McNally Jackson boostore: Find Your Inner Red Shoes, by Mariela Dabbah

Then, I was approached by Teresa Correa, who immediately appointed herself as Head of Ambassadors. That’s really how it all started.

Read Managing Generation Y in the Workplace: How Can Managers Motivate Their Employees?
Teresa Correa, RSM Head of Ambassadors, who at the time worked in Consumer Insights at Avon

Teresa Correa, RSM Head of Ambassadors, who at the time worked in Consumer Insights at Avon

She was in her late twenties, with a sharp career focus and a hunger to empower women, particularly young Latinas. The Red Shoe Movement took over her life outside her full time job in Consumer Insights at Avon. (She is now Manager Global Consumer Insights at Coty, Inc.)

As I would soon discover, every time I talked about the newly-born platform, young, motivated, passionate women would ask to be part of it. I just connected them with Teresa and she built the tribe.

A few months after we first met, Teresa announced that the new team of  Ambassadors she had built was meeting for a drink. I was thrilled and still not paying much mind to the fact that I would very soon have to figure out how to manage Gen Y since all ambassadors belonged to that generation. My head of Ambassadors had everything under control.

When the Red Shoe Movement first started, I had to figure out how to manage Gen Y. Little did I know that they would end up managing me!

How to manage Gen Y in the workplace when they are actually the ones managing you

The group of six professional women met for the first time in October 2012. All in their twenties, all working full time jobs in large corporations, they decided early on that we needed to put on an event. A day when our motto of women empowering women for career success would become a reality. I had toyed with the idea of an event, but we were literally only a few months old and I had to focus on other priorities. (Like putting the cart behind the horse, for example!) But this group of women convinced me that the event would be our official launch, and I believed them.

Read 10 Successful Tactics for Motivating Millennials at Work
Learning how to manage Gen Y staff at the First meeting ever of potential group of RSM Ambassadors.

Learning how to manage Gen Y staff at the First meeting ever of potential group of RSM Ambassadors.

RSM Ambassadors weekly meetings | How to manage Gen Y Staff

RSM Ambassadors weekly meetings

Meeting weekly over a five-month period, and true to our motto of mutual support, our team put together the first RSM Signature Event at the New York Times. And what an event that was. They had planned for 120 participants and we had over 230 people show up!

Under Teresa’s leadership, the team assembled 24 additional volunteers for the event, and together they ran it as if they were trained PR pros from a top firm. I remember some of the most senior attendees commenting that they had never seen an event run so smoothly. The most amazing part? It was all run by volunteers who had never before done something like that!

The RSM Signature Event launched at the New York Times. The senior Ambassadors convened a total of 24 other volunteer Millennials for the event.

The RSM Signature Event launched at the New York Times. The senior Ambassadors convened a total of 24 other volunteer Millennials for the event.


You’d never expect that how to manage Gen Y will become how to let them manage you! This might as well be the Yes Generation of entrepreneurs.

The RSM Signature Event launched at the New York Times. The senior Ambassadors convened a total of 24 other volunteer Millennials for the event.

To tell you the truth, I practically showed up as a guest. They had made all the arrangements with the New York Times Conference Center and our sponsors, figured out a very complex registration system, and even created the Power Point presentation that was projected during the opening and closing portions of the evening. So the question remains, how to manage Millennials when they seem to know how to manage anything you throw at them?

It’s not so much about how to manage Gen Y staff as it is about how to keep them engaged with your organization over a long period of time

What I learned in the process is that this is a generation of entrepreneurs. Of people used to coalescing over a project as if they were a film crew. They come together, get to know each other, use their best talents, reach out to their vast networks to find any additional skills needed, and boom! The project isn’t as mind boggling as it might have seemed to someone of an earlier generation. They are able to work the same way they used to play online — with a remote cyber-buddy they probably never met before. At the core, this might be the Yes generation. There’s nothing they can’t do. Or that they think they can’t do. That’s the power you want to harvest.

Granted, not everyone in this generation is so entrepreneurial and self-directed. For those cases, I suggest your read my blogs Managing Generation Y in the Workplace and 10 Successful Tactics for Motivating Millennials in the Workplace, both of which are chock full of specific tactics that will engage them and keep them around.

What I learned in the process of figuring out how to manage Millennials

It’s the excitement of finding a Teresa Correa or an Annerys Rodriguez (our current Head of Ambassadors, who was part of the initial team of six and works in Diversity & Inclusion at MetLife) that can hide the fact that like all generations, Millennials are not a monolithic group.

Annerys Rodriguez, current RSM Head of Ambassadors, works full time in Diversity and Inclusion at MetLife

Annerys Rodriguez, current RSM Head of Ambassadors, works full time in Diversity and Inclusion at MetLife

Generalizations will only take you so far. So along the way, you will find that how to manage Gen Y staff depends on the makeup of your team. The younger, early twenties members may naturally need more supervision and handholding to complete their tasks on time. As they cross their mid-decade they may have tested their skills enough to have gained a lot more confidence and the necessary work-ethic to carry out their responsibilities to the very end. Judge each case individually, but use this as a guideline. If you don’t tell them they can’t do it, they won’t believe it themselves. And they will surprise you every time.

Engaging, retaining and promoting talent

Engaging, retaining and promoting talent

Successful Women: Anna Yusupova, Event Planner & Red Shoe Movement Senior Ambassador

Anna Yusupova at the Red Shoe Movement Launch Event

We take pleasure in featuring successful women in business as they serve as wonderful and inspirational role models for all of us.

Born in Tajikistan, Dushanbe (former Soviet Union,) Anna moved to Queens, NY at the age of 7 where she began second grade.  Despite speaking no English when she first entered school, Anna graduated high school with a Regents diploma (the highest level degree in New York State.) Sadly, during her senior year in high school, her dad passed away from a sudden heart attack. Anna calls that time of her life her “fork in the road”. She decided to forgo the University of Miami where she had been accepted and attended instead nearby St. John’s University. This enabled her to go to school in the morning and work at her father’s accounting firm at night to help pay for the bills at home. She majored in Accounting and Pre-Law in 3 years with a 3.4 GPA. Seven months ago, Anna got a job as a paralegal at a midtown law firm. Although she loves every aspect of her current position she has recently admitted her real passion.

You’ve worked at your father’s accounting firm and now at a law firm yet you were yearning for something else. How were you able to fulfill your obligations and find time to explore other options? 

I have learned to multitask through all these years. Through that have found my true passion, EVENT PLANNING!!! I never knew how well rounded I was until I was introduced to Mariela Dabbah, who has in essence become my mentor. She has encouraged me to pursue my dreams and gave me the opportunity as one of her Senior Ambassadors to plan the first launch event for the Red Shoe Movement. It has been such an amazing opportunity to be able to put together the vision we discussed with the group of Senior Ambassadors from inception. Since then I have been planning events for LULAC Queens, launched events in different industries as well as birthday parties, weddings and corporate meetings.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your industry and in your job where you would appreciate some help?

As an event planner I face many challenges. One is, how do you recruit a new client unless they physically see your work. I have picked up every client from an event they have attended that I planned, so in essence I understand how important it is to network in my industry.

What do you find the most satisfying part of your work?

Seeing my clients faces when the event is about to start and understanding that I have captured their vision properly.

What are some of the major changes you notice around opportunities for women advancement?

I believe women have come a long way in America especially. I come from a country where women had no say and were not allowed to speak unless they were asked to by a man. They were not allowed to work and mostly had the role of housewives. I remember coming to America and seeing a woman behind the wheel of cars. You had to see the shock my parents and I had in our eyes. I think it’s so amazing that we are all looked upon as equals since gender should not play a role in what each person brings to an industry.

Give us an example of how you’ve become part of a growing number of successful women who are helping other women advance professionally?

I am on the alumni board in my sorority Gamma Phi Beta and am constantly speaking to the new pledge classes of girl who are just starting out their roads to their careers. I encourage them to network and start thinking of their personal growth in their careers as early as freshman year in college. My favorite quote I tell them is, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Could you mention one or more women who have helped you get to where you are now?

I would mention my great friend Teresa Correa who has been the prime example of a woman determined to be the best she can be in her industry and has achieved that with flying colors. She always showed me how to believe in myself and has been a great mentor.

You can connect with Anna on Facebook.


The women of Avon

The women of AvonThe women of Avon, led by Teresa Correa, launched the first Red Shoe Book club at a major American Corporation. Hear some of the book club members explain why they support the initiative.

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Teresa Correa

Teresa CorreaA young and energetic marketer, Teresa Correa brought the Red Shoe Book club to Avon and has become the Head of our Ambassador’s program. She will soon be launching her own platform, LafemmeLatina, a destination that will provide young Latinas with an opportunity to discuss style, body, and spirit.

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