How to Understand an Industry

The need to better understand a new industry applies to both aspiring career switchers and professionals working on a new project outside of their area of expertise. No matter the level of experience, a quick background and understanding of the size of the industry, the key competitors, and cyclical trends will prepare you to be more confident in discussing work in another industry. According to an academic article by Kathy Buckner, a leader’s value increases as their ability to manage and quickly respond to industry trends increases. Here are a few tips to get you started with understanding an industry:

1) Use your network and schedule conversations

The first step is to review your network for any possible connections within the industry. Reach out to the individuals and explain to them the desire to understand the current state of the industry and ask for their availability to schedule a phone call.

2) Use databases to read industry reports

Industry reports are extremely helpful in providing analysis and a high-level overview for a specific industry. The IBISWorld database report provides key statistics, information of market share for competitors, industry trends, consumer habits, and future outlook for the industry. An IBISWorld report is approximately 80 pages however contains multiple graphs and is easy to follow.

3) Search out public speakers or conferences within industry

Listening to key members of the industry speak can be very informative into the current state of affairs. These key members can be CEOs, analysts, or journalists that have scheduled interviews or conferences that are accessible to the public. Ways to locate these conferences can be through LinkedIn or browsing the schedule of your local chamber of commerce to see what upcoming events are planned.

4) Read and subscribe to articles and magazines

WSJ is an excellent source to begin reading published articles organized by industry. Seeing the headlines and reading relevant articles will provide insights into market trends, emerging opportunities, and upcoming threats to the industry. Other informative magazines include The Economist, Bloomberg Businessweek, and local city business journals.


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