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Careers

Career Crossovers

Experts expect more workers to switch industries, even careers, as they change jobs in 2008.

As job seekers, we've been remarkably loyal to our industries. About 60% of professionals with new jobs stayed within their industry during the third quarter of 2007, according to a recent survey. That put the year on track for a record-low level of industry-switching -- until trouble broke out in the housing and finance sectors. Now, outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas expects a spike in industry crossovers early in 2008, similar to the one that occurred in late 2001 as the dot-com bubble collapsed.

Starting anew can be invigorating, but it's risky to your earning power. "The secret is to be conversant in the language of the industry you're moving to," says Jan Cannon, of Cannon Career Development in Boston. For instance, networking skills means something very different in the tech field than it does in public relations, says Cannon. "You don't want the person reading your résumé to do any of the work -- you have to do all the translating."

People who've hopscotched before have an advantage. Twenty-year veterans of a single industry may have to draw on outside volunteer work or other interests to highlight their adaptability. If you have to take a pay cut to get in the door, try to negotiate an early performance and salary review.

It helps to target thriving industries open to newcomers. Harriet Wiggin, 59, was downsized out of her marketing post at a technology research firm in Boston. She hopes to land a similar position in manufacturing -- among the few bright spots in a struggling economy this year. "I think there's more opportunity," says Wiggin, acknowledging that challenges await as well. "There's always a learning curve."