Adaptable Expertise and Finding a Job in the COVID-19 Pandemic

In mid-2016, the CEO for Cartasite, a now-acquired company that provides driver safety and vehicle-tracking solutions, asked me the following question: “What happens to the driver after departing home for work?”

After processing the data using a variety of methods of the quantitative analysis combined with machine learning algorithms utilizing millions of events (themselves utilizing scattered spatial and/or temporal empirical data) triggered by the GPS devices installed in the vehicles driven by thousands of drivers for millions of hours, we observed amazing patterns of risky driving behavior. This allowed us to start looking deeper into the distracted driving, drowsy driving, and driver fatigue using leading and lagging data indicators.

In mid-2020, after working in the different segments of the upstream oil & gas industry for 40+ years and while searching for new job, I asked myself the following question: How could I adapt my expertise in driver safety to the needs of industries “new” to me?    

This challenge comes up when a person is changing industries and has areas of expertise that aren’t easily “mappable” to the “new” industry. The situation becomes even more challenging when the established technical jargon of their old industry doesn’t cleanly overlap with the established technical “jargon” of the “new” industry, even if the methodologies/methods are adaptable to the new industry.

Here are a few specific areas where my expertise ought to be adaptable:

  • Research and development. 
  • Robust predictive & prescriptive analytics of the scattered spatial and/or temporal empirical data.
  • Data processing and interpretation.

When I submitted my resume to the company operating in the industry similar to my “old” industry, I had a video interview with the hiring manager. I did receive a “Thank you for your Application” email from the hiring manager that clearly indicated the interviewer had a very good understanding/insights about my knowledge, experience, and areas of expertise.  

When I submitted my resume to the multiple companies in the industries “new” for me, at the best I received “cut-and-paste” thank-you emails that all stated something like this: “While your experience is impressive, we decided to move forward with other candidate for this role.” At the worst, there was no response at all. 

The challenges are on both sides of the aisle.

The applicant has the responsibility to adapt areas of expertise to the “new” industry, including the established technical jargon of the “new” Industry.  The challenge here is that making such changes to a resume might sound “confusing,” because a resume reflects the applicant’s areas of expertise in the context of their “old” industry.  

The other proactive option here is to use the cover letter to explain how the areas of expertise you mastered in your old industry are applicable to the new one. You don’t have a lot of space in your cover letter, though, so make it succinct, but also make sure you explain how your current areas of expertise will ensure your success in your new position, whatever it is. For example, robust predictive analytics of the sparse/scattered spatial and/or temporal empirical data is valuable area of expertise in any number of companies and industries.  

On a broader level, HR leadership and recruiters may have to adjust their hiring practices when they review resumes and cover letters by applicants coming from substantially different industries. They could also open a direct communications channel with the applicant, such as Dice’s Instant Messaging feature or via LinkedIn messages. That gives applicants another opportunity to show how their areas of expertise are adaptable to a new industry.   

Ideally, applicants and hiring companies should close these gaps sooner rather than later, otherwise industries will lose out on valuable talent with adaptable areas of expertise.