If you have no knowledge of an industry but have an interest in exploring situations, extra steps are recommended. As mentioned, the easiest way to acquire knowledge of a new industry, and gain credibility for it, is to read trade publications. They will bring you up to date on personnel changes, new products, information on companies, and challenges as seen by industry leaders.
Another way to acquire knowledge is to talk with executives already in the field. In some cases you can go further by getting more formal input, attending trade shows and the like. The most radical approach is to take a lower level job in an industry in order to acquire knowledge.
During the last decade we’ve witnessed declines in many industries. However, don’t overlook opportunities in troubled industries. Executives who have worked for firms under pressure often find they can be valuable to distributors or consulting firms. Those who learned tough lessons in competitive battles can function as veterans in any industry.
As you begin to consider industry options, you’ll also need to decide whether you should take a narrow view. This is essential if there are a lot of growth companies in the industries to which you relate best.
However, if you are part of an industry that is suffering a decline, then you will want to adopt a broad view of your options. The more you understand the dynamics of a market, the more you can spot potential opportunities.
Historically, executives tend to overrate the barriers and to underrate their own abilities to make contributions in new areas. It is, of course, up to you to take the initiative to learn something about new companies, new industries, and the problems and opportunities they face.
As you review potential industries of interest, remember that while glamorous high tech and service businesses receive 90% of the publicity today, many executives will find far more opportunities in industries that are considered low tech or non-glamorous by today’s standards.
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