If you’re thinking about changing careers, it’s never too late to start exploring your options. Some kinds of transfer, however, will always be easier than others.
If you’re keen on going into business, transferring from one of these backgrounds will give you a head start.
Running a successful business isn’t all about the numbers but it starts there. Skilled financiers are always in demand and this will give you an advantage whether you’re joining an already established enterprise or looking for the right group of partners with which to set up a new venture.
Aside from the obvious advantages that you’ll have in managing the financial side of business work, this background helps because it trains people to be diligent and good at analytical thinking, with a strong understanding of the way businesses interact with regulators and other aspects of government.
Depending on the type of work you’ve done, it may also give you an advantage in research and negotiations.
Few careers prepare you better for the negotiations involved in business than law – just ask Lady Barbara Judge, who used those skills to persuade the Tokyo stock exchange to open up to international traders. Law also helps with research and analysis and, especially, with the ability to appraise a situation dispassionately, so that you can make important decisions without letting your feelings get in the way.
Because most law jobs allow you to work with many different kinds of people, it helps to provide the sort of broad social awareness that’s important when moving into new markets, and it provides the confidence and self-assurance needed to engage with others at all levels. You may well have a strong network of contacts before you begin.
It might seem like an odd one, but chemistry makes a great starting point for a business career. This is because it prioritizes highly organized systems of thought, making it possible to see the big picture or to microfocus on specific areas without losing track of how they all fit together. This kind of thinking is very useful in management.
Chemists are also good at working through chains of consequence, giving them the ability to predict events with a fair degree of reliability, and they have excellent analytical skills. In most jobs they spend a lot of time working with computers, so they also tend to be well-positioned to deal with IT and more complicated areas like data security in a business context, applying themselves to new problems without feeling intimidated by their complexity.
Why do so many people go on from working in politics to high profile business careers? It’s not just that companies like to raise their profile by hiring famous names, nor indeed, that fame of this sort makes it easier to succeed as an entrepreneur.
Business is about decision making and that’s something that politicians have to do a lot of, often in circumstances that are not of their making and when there’s no available option that they’re comfortable with. They learn how to do research and how to take advice. They also learn how to knuckle down and get on with it – and they specialize in inspiring other people to do so, which makes them excellent team leaders.
Although not everyone who succeeds in politics does so based on skill, those who have done so adapt well to business.
Few careers combine the practical and the intellectual like engineering, especially if you’ve worked in a senior position overseeing projects or managing teams. Much engineering work involves acquiring resources from multiple different sources and bringing together people with different skill sets to coordinate their use.
Organizing at this level is excellent training for working in any business. Because you’ll have had to learn how to communicate with people, from senior managers to construction workers, you’ll also have communication skills that transfer well. Most importantly of all, you’ll be flexible, with problem-solving skills that enable you to confront unfamiliar situations and immediately begin analyzing them with a view to improvement.
For employers and new business teams, taking on somebody from a background like this can bring fresh ideas to bear and be highly advantageous. If you come from a different background and still have business ambitions, don’t be daunted. You could boost your chances with a college course or accept a low-level position while you learn the ropes.
If you’re willing to work for it, the business career you’ve dreamed of is still within your reach.