Being in the recruiting industry for 20 years, I believe that many skills are transferable; however, it depends on the person. How much work they are truly willing to put in. How much time an individual is willing to invest.

The biggest challenge that someone faces when they switch industries is they don't acknowledge how much they have to learn, which really means they don't put in the time to learn the new industry. Many times managers or executives believe they are "entitled." They earned the job and now can change the habits that made them successful. They get lazy.

If a CFO switches industries, debits and credits, analysis, and banking relationships may be the same, but they fail to remember different industries have different issues. The small intricacies of any business are unique from commission plans, to reporting structures, to process flow. The best CFO's really understand how things work operationally. (Same for HR, operations, marketing, etc.)

The best CFOs, or any professional making a change, put in more time than they have ever worked to learn a new industry. They invest the time to meet people in every area of the business, not to make friends (but that's a nice side benefit), but to learn the ins and outs of the business and the industry. They create a peer group of others in the industry from whom they can learn from, whether it is partners at public accounting firms or a CFO who is a friendly competitor.

That is how someone who is transferring into a new industry, but in the same role, makes it a successful one. The lazy way is to take it for granted that it's "all the same" and simply do things as they always have. This is the same for marketing, sales, human resources, legal, etc.

The ironic part that I have found over my career is that majority of managers when hiring for their teams want to see industry experience on a candidate's resume, but when those same hiring managers hit the jobs market themselves, they can't be clearer that they can learn any industry. Yet, they don't have that mentality when hiring for their own teams.

Companies that successfully hire people who have worked a similar role in a different industry work with their human resources team to map out two different integration strategies. One for hiring someone who has industry experience and the second for those who don't. Both these plans have specific training that will get either type of new hire up to speed.

Companies can spend months looking for someone with industry experience, leaving the position open, when instead, they could have hired someone without industry experience but with the right soft skills and trained them in that time.

Many times managers are recruiting for people with experience because they feel they "have" to. I'm not saying a company should or shouldn't hire industry-experienced people; many times they should. However, if it's not discussed or challenged, companies are either missing out on possible high-potentials who could add unique perspective and work ethic, or losing profits by leaving positions unfilled...oftentimes it's both.