5 Steps to Breaking Into a New Industry

March 31, 2015

Connect Member

Practical magician supporting women in designing bold and smart career change adventures.


Changing industries entirely is a strategic process. I’d love to be able to tell you it’s simple, but I am an optimist/realist. What I can tell you is that it is POSSIBLE.

I interviewed Michelle Tillis Lederman, the founder of Executive Essentials, a training company that provides programs in communications, leadership, and executive coaching services. She is the author of The 11 Laws of Likability, Heroes Get Hired and was named by Forbes as one of the 25 Professional Networking Experts to Watch in 2015.

Michelle spent ten years in finance beginning her career as a CPA. Her experience ranges from mergers & acquisitions analyst to venture capital to being a hedge funds investment adviser. Sounds impressive right? This financial professional, with her Columbia MBA, sat down in her brand new corner office on Wall Street (with two windows) and thought “Wow, I got here, now how do I get out?”

Finance was her trade, but training had her heart.

“I realized training was my passion before I took the corner office. I was really upfront with my boss about my desire to train and develop people. I told him upfront this was a 3-5 year arrangement and created a schedule that allowed me to train for a day during the workweek if I had a gig.”

I asked Michelle to chart her course for DailyWorth readers; to really get a visual about what it means to follow your heart that is both strategic and sound. Here’s Michelle’s five point process for transitioning industries:

1. Realize what’s missing from your current career.
“This is the easiest step for people. We know when we are not happy. Ask yourself what is missing. (In my last article, there is a list of questions to ask yourself to get at this.) I realized that “I can not describe what I do, who I do it for, and why I do it without the word ‘money.’ I love money as much as the next person, but I needed more.”

2. Finding your calling.
“I tripped on my purpose. I was working for the bank and was on a special project in Tokyo. I had to hire a coach to help my boss become the CEO there. I hired a coach, but I did everything she did and then some. I was engaged in training his entire executive team on how to report, deliver, and present to their new boss. I was working 16 hours a day and I loved it.” At the end of the week I said, with confidence, to the CEO ‘I can do that.’ He said ‘Sure, but you still have to do my budgets and my hedge fund investments.’”

3. Lay the groundwork strategically.
“If you are changing industries you have to ask yourself where the gaps are; in your confidence and your skillset. Research the position you are trying to get, but never forget confidence is the most persuasive thing. I went and got a coaching certification, not because I didn’t know how to coach but because I wanted to increase my confidence. I laid more ground work by talking about it — to everyone. Until one day someone said ‘Do you want to meet my boss, the head of training at JP Morgan?’ That became my first client.”

4. Get your feet wet & build it on the side.
“If you realize your passion and you aren’t independently wealthy, you are going to be working two jobs. I couldn’t go straight to communications training so I stayed in the realm of finance training and began working on the side with the American Management Association. I wasn’t training on the topic — I wanted to but I was getting a great experience I was learning how to build a program, manage the room, and find new clients.”

5. Know when it’s time to take the leap.
“It’s really hard to leave security. If you are moving from one company to another, be mentally and actively pursuing the move. If you are going out on your own then you need to think about when, financially and emotionally, is the best point to act. I was six months pregnant thinking ‘I can’t do all of this anymore.’ I had a certain level of income before I took the leap I had enough that I would be OK. When you can cover your basic expenses, then you can take the leap with confidence.”

I met Michelle when I was in step one of her strategy. I was working in education and knew the business world was calling me back. After a breakout session at the Columbia Women in Business Conference in 2008, I just walked right up to her and we started talking. We began to build a business relationship that ultimately became one of mutual respect, friendship, admiration. Michelle is the real deal, an example for women at any age or stage that you can create real professional change. It is just going to take work and it CAN be fun.

Creating meaningful and lasting business relationships is the key to career transition. Attend Michelle’s live training, The Relationship Driven Leader (based on the 11 Laws of Likability) in New York City June 4th and 5th. Understanding the drivers of likability will enable you to build an authentic network that accelerates results. For more information, click here.

Stephanie Licata is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.