There are many reasons to consider pivoting your compliance and risk management career. Perhaps you are bored with your current industry or simply burned out. Maybe something else has sparked your interest, motivating you to transition to another business sector. Or perhaps a company in a different industry is recruiting you to join their team and you are facing uncertainty. Whatever your reason for pursuing a change as a risk management professional, know that it is within your reach.
Looking For A Change
Earning my master’s degree had been a lifelong dream. When I applied to the Master in Legal Studies (MLS) program in Compliance and Risk Management at Seattle University in 2020, I worked for one of the largest biopharmaceutical corporations in the world. The company had an excellent reputation, my colleagues were outstanding, and my role offered a good professional challenge. It was also the next logical step to better my chances of promotion into senior management. Upon reflection, I now realize it was not a promotion in my current industry that I was seeking. I was actually looking for a way to up my game as a compliance and risk management professional and experience a new business sector. I just didn’t understand how to make that happen.
Flipping The Professional Narrative
During one of the live class sessions for the Organizational Investigations course, the professor spoke about the transferability of compliance and risk management skill set. The word “transferability” was immediately intriguing. What would it take to transfer my experience in biopharmaceuticals and healthcare to another industry? What would that sell to another business sector look like, assuming I could even land an interview outside pharmaceuticals? After each live lecture, the professor would typically stay online to talk with those of us who had questions.
The conversation that followed led to a transformational change in how I thought about professional life and communication between careers. It was here that I began to understand the importance of flipping the narrative. The professor told me, “If you can flip your perspective by 5%, you’ll realize that you’re not a compliance and risk management expert in the biopharmaceutical industry. You’re a compliance and risk management expert, who happens to work in the biopharmaceutical industry. Your skills transfer to any industry”.
It All Starts With Mindset
As professionals, the traditional expectation is to list all of our experiences on a resume. We highlight our industry, the companies we worked with, and our job titles, responsibilities, and accomplishments. We start big because it is logical and it makes sense. However, it also places you last in your own career. So, what would happen if you shifted your mindset, say 5%? What could you accomplish if you started thinking of yourself as a product or brand and put your professional self first? Instead of, “I work in the aerospace industry for X company as a Risk Manager,” you state, “I am a Risk Manager for X company in the aerospace industry.” Place yourself upfront as the brand. Position yourself as the professional first.
Communicate In Transferable Skills
While we may be from different industries, risk management and compliance professionals demonstrate similar core skill sets. Our current or future profession in compliance and risk may focus on abilities and expertise including:
- Legal research
- Interpretation and application of regulatory standards
- Clear and concise writing
- Analytical and creative thought
- Strategic planning
- Audit and inspection
- Business process engineering
- Ability to qualitatively and quantitatively assess different scenarios
- Proficiency in communicating with diverse audiences
- Project and people management
- Technical capabilities
Interpersonal and leadership adeptness
When communicating with professional colleagues and potential employers, listen for what they are truly looking for in a candidate. Often you may find that the differentiating factor is hidden between the bullet points of a job description. Ask questions and, if possible, identify a project similar to something you have worked on previously. Those who have not yet begun their career can look for alignment with a school project or participation in community outreach or programs.
You can then use this discovered information during an interview as an opportunity to highlight who you are and how you operate. What skills did you use, how did you use them, and what was accomplished as a result?
As an example, let’s say you spent the last five years in healthcare risk management and are looking to pivot to the nonprofit sector. During an interview with a sports-based nonprofit, you learn they are re-engineering their business processes to streamline operations. You can then share a similar initiative you led during a previous professional engagement. Highlight some challenges that you encountered, methods and skills you used to overcome them, and successful outcomes. Approaching the question in this manner bends industry-specific barriers and places you as a risk management professional in your environment of choice. It helps establish you as the differentiating factor that potential employers need—and want—to make part of their team.
Get Clear On Your Pivot
Whatever your reason is for wanting to pivot your career in risk management and compliance to another industry, be clear on where you want to land. Are you really bored with your current industry or burned out at your company? Research, learn, and network if another business sector has sparked your interest. If you face uncertainty, sign up for career mentoring and mock interviews—professional and alumni associations can be great resources.
So, how did that 5% shift in mindset end up influencing my risk management and compliance career today? Currently, I work as the Senior Manager of Integrated Risk Management in Information Security for Wolfspeed – a semi-conductor and green energy company based in Durham, North Carolina. Prior to that, I was a Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) consultant for the Data Governance division of a large entertainment empire. This all resulted after spending nearly 15 years in the biopharmaceutical industry.That 5% pivot of how I look at myself as a professional brand directly impacted my ability to transfer my skillset to not one but two other industries.
Your career pivot begins with shifting your mental state and putting that new way of thinking into action. If you want to make a career change, start doing the work now. You are a compliance and risk management professional, first and foremost. Reach across industry lines, research different companies, and proactively pursue your next career move. Your skills and experience are transferable and there are companies and industry sectors out there looking for what you have to offer.