If you’re on the hunt for a technical knowledge-work-kind-of job, it’s useful to imagine that there are two kinds of job markets:

1) a market where candidates look for jobs that they’re trained/experienced in (eg SW devs applying for SW dev roles, or researchers applying for researcher roles, or data scientists applying for data science roles, etc)


2) a market where candidates look for jobs that they’re NOT trained/experienced in, but who are trained/experienced in an equally technical field (eg researchers applying for SW dev roles, like we’re seeing in quantum computing these days, or SW devs applying for data science roles, or data scientists applying for researcher roles, etc)

These two job markets operate somewhat independently: candidates in one don’t really compete with candidates in the other for the same jobs.

Sure, both a SW dev and a researcher can get a job called “SW dev”, but in practice, the jobs each one does will be quite different since they have different skill-sets. The company will likely see these as two different roles, filling two different needs (sometimes both will be needed, sometimes only one).

The job-hunting strategies for each market are also quite different.

For market 1, the jobs are relatively well-defined. It’s clear who a company wants to hire, so they can just write a job posting. For candidates, it’s reasonable to look at job postings and apply on line, and it’s relatively straightforward to communicate your value through a resume. Networking always helps, but it’s not as critical here.

For market 2, the transferable skills candidates bring from one technical area to another can be extremely valuable, but it’s more difficult to communicate that in the abstract, independent of a specific candidate and a specific company. It’s therefore more difficult for a company to write a job description and more difficult for candidates to communicate their value through a resume.

So this is where networking really shines. There are people out there that want to hire someone just like YOU, to solve a particular problem, but they won’t know it until they meet you and get to know you.

So if you’re job-hunting in market 2, it’s really important to talk to as many people as possible, to maximize your chances of finding the right fit.

This doesn’t mean that you should spam everyone asking them to meet with you to give you a job.

But it means to be more deliberate about getting to know more people in different industries that you’re interested in.

Be curious about other people and their work. Learn about their needs.

Be interesting to them in return. Tell them what you like to do and what you’re good at.

Make new friends.

This way, you will have a much better chance at making the jump from one technical field to another, than you would by using strategies that make more sense for market 1.

Want to share your thoughts? You can join the discussion on LinkedIn.