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How to Leverage Your Transferable Skills during a Career Change
Your transferable skills are one of the most important things to highlight when you want to change careers. Their importance cannot be overstated since, presumably, you don't have much, if any, experience in your new field.
If you are currently looking to change career, or are seriously considering it, this guide will help you to identify the transferable skills you already have to help you get a great job in your new industry.
Consider Your Past Work History
The first step is to make a list of the skills and experience you have from your previous work history.
Dig out your old resume and list the skills from it that you still possess. Think of the skills you have gained since you last updated your resume, and add them to your list as well.
Some skills that are easily transferable between different sectors include soft skills and technological skills. Technological skills, such as coding, cloud technology usage and app development, are important in nearly every industry. It is important to keep these skills up-to-date and relevant due to the fast-changing nature of technology.
Soft skills are very easily transferable but are also much more difficult to demonstrate to potential employers. Soft skills that are in high demand include leadership skills, interpersonal skills, written and oral communication skills, time management and the ability to prioritize, among others. If you have cultivated these, you have a lot to offer any team you join in your new industry.
Consider Skills Required for Your New Career
Once you have made a list of skills you have, you need to look into the skills desired or required for the new career you wish to pursue.
These skills can be identified in a number of ways. You can carefully analyze job postings similar the position you are interested in and see what skills they require. You can speak to people currently employed in the field for their input on what skills they need and use every day to be successful. Employment data sites, such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics and PayScale, also offer in-depth information on the skills candidates for particular roles need.
If your new industry requires a few skills you do not have, do what you can to obtain them. For example, you may download a trial version of software heavily used by your new industry and familiarize yourself with it. You may be able to earn certifications in certain programs as well, which will look good on your new resume. Volunteer work can not only help you develop needed skills, but it can also serve as solid experience on your resume, so don't discount it. Remember that you must “Work to become, not to acquire.” -Elbert Hubbard
Knowing how you learn can be useful, because there are different types of learning styles. Some people learn by doing, while others want to learn everything they can about something before trying it out. This self-awareness will allow you to both learn faster and retain what you learn.
Highlight Your Skills on Your Resume
Now that you have a good idea which of your skills will help you get a job in your new industry, it's time to start drafting your resume.
On it, you will want to have a skill section that is front and center. For example, on a resume for a medical assistant position, you can highlight your organizational ability and attention to detail, as well as good people skills. Go into detail and give examples from your previous jobs that show you possess these skills.
As always, do not put anything on your resume that you cannot back up. Do not claim mastery in a skill that you do not have since, if you are caught lying, you most certainly won't get the position. You will also have already damaged your reputation in your new industry, which can be very difficult to build back up. Even if you get hired, the lie can be found out later when it becomes clear you do not possess the abilities you claimed you did on your resume. This will likely result in you getting fired and will make it more difficult to find work in your new field again, so avoid doing it at all costs.
Use Your Cover Letter
Your cover letter is perhaps more important than your resume when changing careers. This is because a cover letter gives you the opportunity to explain your situation, whereas your resume just lists your professional information.
In your cover letter, you have an opportunity to explain why you don't have much background in your new field - because you are changing careers - and you can then highlight the skills and experience you are bringing over from another industry into the new one.
In your cover letter, focus on how what you did before pertains to your new career. Explain how this change is a good continuation of your career path and what made you excited to enter this industry in the first place. If you have a personal story or admiration for this particular company, don't be afraid to share it. Know the company's mission and values so you can appeal to those with the skills you have to offer.
Bring Relevant Skills Up in Interviews
In interviews, you will need to lean on your transferable skills and experience to demonstrate that you are capable and qualified for the job.
If both your previous career and your new one complement each other well, that may be a significant selling point you can touch upon. For example, if you worked in sales and now want to work in HR, you can talk about how the persuasive skills you developed in sales gives you a great perspective in selling new recruits on working for the company.
You may be asked to demonstrate those skills in some sort of skill test, which you should always take if given the choice. Finally, demonstrate your passion for this new field and explain why you chose to switch to it. With any luck, the hiring manager will be impressed by your preparation and your passion, as well as think your personality will be a good fit for their organization, and you will be hired.
Leverage your transferable skills to their fullest extent when changing careers. Doing so will drastically increase your chances of success in finding a new job. While it is very likely you will end up in a lower position than you previously enjoyed, you can still get your foot in the door and not have to start entirely at the bottom again. As the author George Elliot said, "It's never too late to be what you might have been."
About the Author
Elizabeth Heron is an HR Manager who graduated from Kent State University with a Masters in Journalism and Mass Communication. She helps employees find their career goals and motivates them through the process of getting their ideal job. She is Senior Editor for iResumeCoverLetter.com, where she provides advice and examples of cover letters and resumes.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
Develop the skills you need to get that job.
This eBook is essential reading for potential job-seekers. Not only does it cover identifying your skills but also the mechanics of applying for a job, writing a CV or resume and attending interviews.