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Don't be afraid to move industry. Your skills have universal relevance

A new project management challenge could mean a new industry. So are your project management skills transferable? Can you move industry? The good news is that, yes, it is indeed possible. 

The tools and techniques of project management are universal. A good project manager should be able to add value in any environment. Most project managers, however, bring some specific subject matter expertise with them so they wear, in effect, two hats. The hat of the professional project manager and the hat of an expert in building bridges, installing IT systems or managing business process change.

This subject matter expertise could be industry-specific technical knowledge, but it could also be project experience. If you have run a business transformation project in one industry, then organisations in another industry will value that experience. 

If you wish to move industry, then ensure your CV focuses on your transferable skills: your project management skills. Remove industry-specific jargon or detailed technical information from your CV. If this information is not relevant, then it will be of no interest to the recruiter. 

Programme management office (PMO) professionals, in particular, have very transferable skills, just like professionals with other corporate infrastructure experience such as HR and finance. I know many PMO professionals who have successfully moved industries several times, building their experience on every occasion. 

A candidate with experience of different environments is more interesting. Having that depth of experience can only make you a better project management professional. So do dip a toe into the world beyond your industry. New challenges await!


Vince Hines is managing director at Wellingtone Project Management, an APM career development partner.

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  1. Vince Hines
    Vince Hines 13 May 2016, 01:39 PM

    Hi Jayne,Thanks for your comment and I can understand your experience.  Most recruiters are focused on either a job type or industry.  Without turning this into an advert for Wellingtone... we are a specialist project management recruitment company so would be interested in receiving your CV.  Equally I would suggest doing the same with other specialist project management recruitment agencies - there are a few.  As a general guide I would check that an agency is a member of the REC and don't be afraid to ask about their track record in your job area.  You can register your CV with us from this link: http://www.wellingtone.co.uk/project-management-recruitment/register-cv/Good luck! 

  2. Vince Hines
    Vince Hines 04 May 2016, 12:31 PM

    Thanks for your comments Alexander, Rowan and Iain.  I do agree that some employers are absolutely looking for domain experience and do need help in recognising the transferrable skills within project management.  I think this is one area for the APM to help us push - particularly now Charter Status is finally within sight - this helps push the professionalism of our industry. As a practical note - if you are looking to move industry I suggest you remove as much industry specific jargon from your CV as possible - highlight your transferrable skills - planning, communication, stakeholder engagement, team leadership, conflict resolution, risk management, issue resolution - as example these tick boxes for every industry.

  3. Jayne Oddy
    Jayne Oddy 13 May 2016, 11:31 AM

    Hi Vince, everything that you're saying makes complete sense and as a PM who is looking for opportunities in other industries I have done exactly that with my CV. However I've been struggling to find recrtuiers who are able to assist me make a transition because most seem to be focussed on a specific domain themselves. I was even advised that I should remove my references to transferrable skills in my CV because it's to 'generic'.Do you have any advice on how to actually find recruiters who are knowledgeable enough to help support an industry transition?

  4. Alexander Benzies
    Alexander Benzies 25 May 2015, 10:02 AM

    In mid-2003 my role in a leading defence company was declared redundant. With around 17 years' PM experience at that time and no real opportunities in defence work locally, I was fortunate enough through networking to gain a PM position with a construction consultancy - the Partner was willing to take a gamble with someone who knew nothing about buildings! Over ten years on, I believe the chnage has worked for both parties. I gained a new enthusiasm for my work in a smaller, more friendly environment where I saw the end result more quickly than in defence, and was able to bring useful previous experience in project management, configuration and change control, and tendering to my new employer. I'm now part-time and likely to retire in early 2016, and would strongly recommend an industry change to anyone in either a redundancy situation or who wants refreshment and renewal of their PM enthusiasm.Cheers,Sandy Benzies

  5. Rowan Webb
    Rowan Webb 29 December 2015, 07:44 AM

    I started a car financing company and have tried out a ton of other things in my past. It's a never-ending search for something that you connect with and have a passion for (which you hopefully make money from)! Never be afraid to try something new but of course take calculated risks too! There is always a learning curve, but a sense of satisfaction when you master it!

  6. Alexander Benzies
    Alexander Benzies 25 May 2015, 10:02 AM

    In mid-2003 my role in a leading defence company was declared redundant. With around 17 years' PM experience at that time and no real opportunities in defence work locally, I was fortunate enough through networking to gain a PM position with a construction consultancy - the Partner was willing to take a gamble with someone who knew nothing about buildings! Over ten years on, I believe the chnage has worked for both parties. I gained a new enthusiasm for my work in a smaller, more friendly environment where I saw the end result more quickly than in defence, and was able to bring useful previous experience in project management, configuration and change control, and tendering to my new employer. I'm now part-time and likely to retire in early 2016, and would strongly recommend an industry change to anyone in either a redundancy situation or who wants refreshment and renewal of their PM enthusiasm.Cheers,Sandy Benzies

  7. Alan Gould
    Alan Gould 20 April 2015, 02:57 PM

    You make an excellent point, Vince – and this is also a real test for Project Management as a profession in its own right.However, the challenge for those of us working across industries is the resistance from the hiring managers who insist on specific domain experience as an initial selection criteria and are therefore missing out on the available talent.  I agree with you that PM skills and experience are fully transferable, but this has yet to reach the leaders and decision makers in specific sectors.  I’ve talked to many PM’s, consultants and recruitment experts who are campaigning to address this issue – and without much success so far.  You may be preaching to the converted in the APM.  We need to get your message out to the employers! 

  8. Vince Hines
    Vince Hines 30 April 2015, 02:13 PM

    Hi Alan.  Thanks for your comments.  I completely agree.  Hiring managers tend to be cautious and taking on someone from a different industry could unfortunately be seen as too much of a gamble.  Industries as diverse as banking and rail are examples that are traditionally not keen to look beyond their own boundaries.  Some clients however take a very refreshing approach and pro-actively seek candidates form other industries where project management is more mature.  They recognise the limitations within their own industry and are looking to make a step change. We certainly encourage clients to take a wider view when recruitment - in fact we are currently recruiting contract PMs for a "prestigious automotive manufacturer" in the West Midlands and they are very happy to consider non-automotive candidates.  See GD202 on the jobs page (https://www.apm.org.uk/jobs)Cheers,Vince