THOUGHT PIECE the carling team

Tips For Changing Career Tracks In The Brewing And Distilling Industry

Many in the brewing and distilling industry are considering a change of track for their next career move. This might be from brewing to distilling, a move away from production, or sideways moves into related fields such as auditing or into the allied industries doing technical sales. Based on my research with the industry, and my experience coaching careers, I have looked at what seems to work well to support these types of moves and have curated these insights into tips for making it happen.


Talking to those who have changed career tracks, something that surprised them was they had more relevant skills than they realised! For example, moving between brewing and distilling they estimated that 70% of the skills they had were in common. Consider the mechanics of moving liquid between tanks, fermentation and yeast handling, microbiology and hygiene, QC/ QA/HACCP systems – there is a lot in common. Also consider areas such as sensory: The basics of how you run a panel, the various outputs (maps, difference tests), how you interpret the data, use sensory for QC, link through to NPD or marketing teams – these are all the same no matter what beverage category you are tasting. The only ‘gap’ is to be familiar with the product, which you can easily be trained in.

What is the advantage of knowing your transferable skills?

– It makes these types of moves feel more feasible and this might be the tipping point for deciding to go ahead
– You need to be able to talk about them and showcase this experience in an interview.
– It gives you the opportunity for targeting some strategic CPD before making the move.

How do you identify your transferable skills? Tips for doing this include: talking to others in your network who work in the new track so that you understand their roles and daily challenges; discussing potential roles with recruiters such as the Carling team; working with a career coach or mentor who can help you to analyse your experience and how it translates across technical areas.


Facilitating the move by filling some CPD gaps in advance can be very useful and can help to make an application more competitive. For example, taking an IBD qualification, reading industry magazines, going on technical visits, attending webinars, training your palette to a new product, or ‘helping out’ to get some hands-on experience. However, in terms of strategy, the tip for CPD is to focus achieving these two outcomes that can really help you in the interview:

– You are able to use some of the vocabulary of the new technical area. This will give the interviewer more confidence that you will fit into the role.
– You can demonstrate your ability to be a quick learner/self starter i.e. they will not be worried about the feasibility of making the transition.


Possibly one of the interview questions that is guaranteed to come up first is: ‘why do you want to make this move?’ and a tip is to make sure that you have a good answer!

As you plan your answer, it is worth considering that one of the trends in our industry is that linear career paths are disappearing and switching tracks and having a more complex career path is a lot more common. In fact, feedback from my industry interviews is that those with broader backgrounds are well regarded as they have demonstrated adaptability, an ability to learn and pick up new areas as well as having a wider range of technical and non technical skills. They also have an ability to work in teams with diverse technical skills – think about projects that involve environmental impact, big data, digitisation etc – project meetings now are very broad and dynamic. As such, driving your career to develop this broad base of experience is good strategy and the interviewers themselves may not be all that surprised that you are making this move.

Succinctly capturing your own motives, and clearly explaining your career strategy, can take a bit of finessing and a good tip is to practice your response to this question with trusted friends or mentor, so that you can make sure the interview starts well.


When you are changing tracks, one of the questions that will be front of the interviewer’s mind (although it may not be directly asked) is ‘can this candidate make the transition?’. As mentioned earlier, using the right vocabulary, and providing examples of how you are a quick learner can be useful.

However, it’s also a good tip to consider how you select your current experience to answer interview questions and make the case for being a good candidate. For example, if you are switching track to technical sales, the interviewers will be looking for evidence of skills such as problem solving, negotiation, relationship building and networking. So, plan in advance which of your key projects or accomplishments showcases these skills, and then choose these examples in the interview to answer questions.


Finally, if you are changing tracks, you will be bringing additional skill sets to the role that will be an attractive bonus and can make you very competitive. For example, if you are changing technical areas, you will bring a valuable ‘outside view’ that can be useful for innovation and strategy. If you are moving from production into a quality role, your experience will be useful to the quality team as you will bring an insight into how to work with production to implement changes. The tip is therefore to map this out in advance so that you can highlight these in the interview.

Dr Caroline Walker is an IBD fellow and an accredited Executive coach. She offers specialised online career coaching, interview preparation and mentoring for the industry. She can be contacted at or through Linked in Dr Caroline Walker | LinkedIn