One of the worst pieces of advice I’ve seen is a recruiter discouraging someone that is an expert in one field from pursuing another field. The banker that wants to go into brand management. The artist that wants to be a consultant. The juggler that wants to go into investment banking (yes, I’ve seen this at Kellogg). Or the tech entrepreneur that wants to run for office. In my view, the theory that people should recruit for careers that they are closely aligned with is not always good advice.
On the one hand, the advice does make sense. If you have a relevant background, the firms will value you. They’ll appreciate certain skills you have. Understand you might need less training for the job. And have some certainty that you can figure out how to fit in. That can make recruiting easy and in some cases a successful journey for you.
On the other hand, they are also forgetting that a job similar to that is what took you away from work to graduate school. It’s a job that has dozens of people with your “relevant” background and will compete with you; but far fewer who think differently. And far fewer than that who are “daring.” Who dare to go into a brand new profession where the odds of success are much lower but reward might be higher.
Personally, I like the person who takes the latter option. And if he/she is smart, he/she will learn on the job. After all, we all were at a point when we knew nothing about our jobs. But we read up, found mentors, practiced solving problems and became better. Now imagine doing that with a set of expert skills from another industry. You would be quite unique.
The result of doing something you’ve always done is having an very high proficiency.
The result of doing something different can sometimes be game changing.