There can be a moment in some people’s careers when they feel compelled to take their experience into a new sector, like health, disability or aged care, where they can have greater personal impact. This desire for change may reflect dissatisfaction with a current role or industry, or be brought on by a significant event or lived experience, which is not uncommon for people looking to move into the care industries.
“Making a significant career change as a senior leader can be deeply rewarding, but when this change involves moving into a new sector or industry it can be a lot more challenging than people realise,” says Jennifer Grove, a Partner at Gerard Daniels. “To some extent this applies to senior leaders looking to make any significant change, but some additional factors do come into play when moving into the care industries.”
Look back before you look forward
Before making a significant career or industry change, it can be helpful to reflect on:
- What motivates you
- The type of work you enjoy and find meaning in
- What you value from your work environment
- Your transferrable skills and experience
- And how you want to grow your career.
“Some life and work experiences can trigger a desire for change, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But there are no guarantees that changing industry alone will fix the issues or frustrations that you are experiencing, or that you will find what you are looking for elsewhere,” says Jennifer.
“Reflection can help you to understand what’s driving your desire for change; bring clarity to your future goals and aspirations; and reveal any lived experience or professional issues shaping your decision,” she continues. “It can also improve your self-awareness and performance as a leader and determine how you can add value in a new industry.”
Know what you’re getting into
While there are some compelling reasons for moving into the care industries, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. “No industry comes without its challenges, so do your research and make sure that you understand the environment you will be moving into,” says Jennifer. “This advice is particularly relevant to roles in strategy, finance, ICT, people and culture, and procurement, that are more easily transferrable.”
Leaders that choose to leave performance driven workplaces – like professional services or mining – often have misconstrued views of care industries as being “softer” and somehow “easier” environments. While this is always the aim of service delivery in these industries, they are very challenging and highly regulated industries to work in and to lead. Misconceptions also exist about the responsibility that comes with performing leadership roles in these industries.
“Serving as a senior leader in a largescale, profit-driven organisation provides a lot more cover than some leaders realise, and when they move into the care industries, they can find themselves much more exposed from an accountability perspective. They also lack the resources of other sectors,” says Jennifer. “That sense of personal responsibility can be challenging, knowing their performance can impact the care that people receive.”
According to Jennifer, the care industries can also be disruptive to lead, given the number of external factors at play. “Aged care and disability care are good examples, where political decisions impacting funding and regulation can quickly change the operational landscape and create unique leadership challenges,” she says.
Preparing for your move
For experience to be put to good use, leaders must move into the care industries with an open mind and open ears, ready to listen and learn. “These are not generally industries that you can come into with a crusade mentality, thinking you can quickly fix all of the issues,” says Jennifer. “These are complex environments with complex issues, and as a new leader you must be prepared to accept you will not have all the answers.”
Here are some other pre-move considerations for senior leaders preparing to make this move.
Dip your toe in the water
Before making a major career move, consider finding a Board opportunity in this new industry. “Although Board roles are not operational, they can give you a sense of the issues, culture, challenges, and environment that you will be moving into,” says Jennifer.
Talk it through
If you are considering moving into a new industry, talk it through with friends, family and colleagues that know you well. “Often other people can unpick issues that you can’t, challenge your thinking in ways that you can’t, and reveal things that you need to think about, but haven’t,” says Jennifer.
If your current role doesn’t expose you to headhunters, it’s worth contacting a firm that can connect you with new industries. “Not all leadership roles are advertised, so getting yourself on the radar is an important step in finding these opportunities and being seen as a viable candidate,” says Jennifer.
Showcase your suitability
If you lack industry experience, be sure to write a compelling cover page for your application or CV, and use the interview process to demonstrate your understanding of the environment that you are moving into. “You don’t need to have all of the answers, but you do need to show that you’ve done your homework, that your skills are transferrable, and that you could bring fresh perspective to the challenges that you will encounter,” says Jennifer. “This is also your opportunity to show that you understand and can operate within the limitations and expectations of the care industries.”
Many of these considerations apply to any significant career change, but they are critical factors for moving into the care industries. “The more research, reflection and thinking you can do before making his move, the smoother your transition and ultimately the better your performance will be,” says Jennifer.