Career Change: Identifying Your Transferable Skills

identifying transferable skillsIn any job search, how you present your skills and experience on your resume, curriculum vitae and in interviews makes a huge difference in whether hiring managers will consider you qualified to perform the job in question.  When you are trying to switch careers, this can be even more of a challenge.  Since you are applying to an industry or job category that you don’t have previous experience in, you can be easily overlooked as a qualified job candidate.  In any career change, identifying your transferable skills is the first step to making the case that you can perform the job in question.  Transferable skills for career changers refer to skills you have developed in past jobs that can be used for a wide range of different jobs.

What Are Transferable Skills for Career Changers?

To give you an idea of common transferable skills for career changers, here are some examples:

  • Interpersonal skills such as listening, negotiating, persuasion, customer service and teamwork.
  • Knowledge of computer programs used in many jobs and industries.
  • Technical skills such as creating spreadsheets, fast typing speed, social media and computer programming.
  • Business skills such as project management, time management, developing budgets, problem solving, event planning and giving presentations.

For example, say you have spent years as a paralegal and are looking to switch to a career in information technology project management. In your CV and interviews you can highlight your knowledge of relevant computer programs and technical skills you developed as a paralegal such as your ability to type 90 wpm.

Presenting Career Change Transferable Skills on Your Resume or CV

In a career change, it’s important that you identify transferable skills you have that are the most relevant to the job you are applying to.  In your resume or cover letter, you only have so much room to display your qualifications, and hiring managers spend an average of 6 seconds looking at your resume before deciding whether to consider you for the job.  No matter how impressive some of your past accomplishments may be, if they don’t clearly demonstrate skills that make you a good fit for the new career you are pursuing, leave them out.

Creating an attention-grabbing cover letter is an essential for any job seeker.  It allows you to show your personality and passion for the job you are applying to and highlight your most impressive qualifications.  Cover letters are an exceptional opportunity to show transferable skills for career changers.  First, make sure you take a thorough look at the job description for the role you are applying to see what abilities they are looking for in a candidate, and the keywords associated with the skills required for the job.   After identifying your transferable skills most useful to the job you are applying to, you must make the case in your cover letter as to exactly why and how these skills will come in handy in your new career.  Be sure to use keywords that the hiring manager is likely to be looking out for, and avoid using jargon from your previous career that the hiring manager may not understand.  Also let your enthusiasm show through when you explain what inspired you to make a career change.

If you are making a career change, using a hybrid resume or CV format is one of the most useful ways to show your transferable skills.  To avoid confusing hiring managers, clearly state at the top of your resume or CV that you are interested in the specific job you are applying for and that you are making a career change.  Follow that with a section that summarizes your transferable skills that apply to that position.  Then you can summarize your work experience, listing only the most relevant experience you have regarding the specific job you are applying to.  Keep in mind that transferable skills for career changers are no good unless the hiring manager has evidence they will produce results.  So, in your resume experience section be sure to highlight your most impressive accomplishments, using quantifiable evidence such as “Produced $100,000 in sales revenue in the first six months” and “Increased customer base by 40%”.  As with your cover letter, be sure to optimize your resume with relevant keywords from the job description, company website and other keywords you are aware of that are common in the industry you are applying to.  If you have work samples such as presentations you created, graphic design or written work, include attachments or links where the work can be viewed by hiring managers.

Networking is Key to Identifying Transferable Skills

For career changers, networking is a great tool to use for help with identifying transferable skills.  If you don’t already have professional contacts in the industry you want to switch your career to, start making connections on social media or at networking events.  Discuss with those in the industry what skills are most important, how they should be used, and find out other ins and outs of the industry.  Networking with people familiar with the new career you are trying to launch will also help you become familiar with the language commonly used in the industry.  This will come in handy during interviews, since you will be more equipped to respond to questions and appear more self-assured that you will be a good fit for the job.

Presenting Career Change Transferable Skills in Interviews

For career changers, presenting transferable skills in interviews can be a challenge.  You will be asked if you have experience in work situations you may be unfamiliar with.  Be sure to respond in a positive manner.  For example, if you are asked “What experience do you have revising budgets in a business operations environment?” and most of your experience is in retail, don’t respond with “I don’t have experience with that, but…”  Instead, say something like “I have had extensive experience deciding what products should be ordered at the retail store I previously worked at.  This was at times challenging since I had a certain budget to work with and had to make choices regarding how much of each product our store should have in stock that will generate the most revenue.”

Author: Jessica Cody

Jessica Cody, a native of Fairfield County, Connecticut, has a background in online marketing and public relations. Currently, she works at VHMNetwork LLC in the role of Marketing Analyst. She is a graduate of the University of Connecticut, where she studied Journalism and Political Science. She is also an avid runner with a passion for the outdoors.

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Career Change: Identifying Transferable Skills
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Career Change: Identifying Transferable Skills
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In any job search, how you present your skills and experience on your resume, curriculum vitae and in interviews makes a huge difference in whether hiring managers will consider you qualified to perform the job in question.
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Employment Alert
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