Early on in my career, when I was looking to change jobs – and, more often than socially-accepted, change careers – I never thought about things like transferable skills in job interviews or as part if my job search. In fact, it never occurred to me that skills weren’t transferable.
I mean I was bringing me with me wherever I went, and I was the one with the skills, so ipso facto, my previous skills were transferable. Why wouldn’t they be? Employers could figure that out without my help. (At least that’s what I told myself.)
But many careers later as I type this, I have learned that we do indeed need to help employers recognize that many of our skills are easily transferable from one job type to another. Somehow we’ve become so labeled and categorized – mere data in a database – and life has become so hectic and multi-tasked, that we should no longer expect anyone to look beyond what we clearly spell out for them – and most definitely not potential employers.
They need our help to know how great we are! And so it is our job to make it clear in resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, and of course job interviews just how well we match the new job description – even if the role we previously had seems far different from the one we’re interviewing for now.
Why Use Transferable Skills?
Your transferable skills help to make you more able to move from career to career without having years of experience in that field. But, of course, where possible it does help to also have some overlap of experience. In career guru Richard Bolles best-selling book, What Color Is Your Parachute, he explains that if you’re looking to make a huge career jump you might perhaps make an interim career jump first.
One example Bolles uses for making the “long jump” is if you are an accountant in the television industry and you want to become a reporter in the medical field (no direct connection between the two jobs), it helps to first get a job as accountant in medicine or reporter in television, each jump easier since there is some direct connection to what you do now. So when you finally go for the job you really want, you bring with you some direct experience related to your new career choice. But the rest of what you have to offer is still all about your transferable skills … and of course how you fit into the culture of the new place.
Yes, that means it might take longer to get to where you really want to be, but so what? It’s your career, and you deserve to invest time in yourself. And you may even pick up unexpected skills and experiences along the way that serve you well later on. So no step is wasted – if you keep your eyes and ears open.
I’ll talk more about using transferable skills in other posts (see below), since they can play a major role in job interviews and in the career transition process as a whole. But for now, just remember to give yourself credit for all the skills you’ve accumulated to this point, and think about how you can best show that what you’ve already done makes you an ideal candidate for where you are looking to wind up next.
Your job when changing your career is to use everything from your past to help paint your future!
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