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Transferable Skills: The Key Ingredient to Changing Careers

by Lorraine Rise M.S., CPRW

The standard advice that job seekers receive when changing careers seems to be to "focus on your transferable skills." Do an internet search for the term "transferable skills" and you’ll find a plethora of advice! But what if you don't know exactly what that means? Or, you just don't know what skills you have that are transferable? This is a very common and normal problem to have.

It's tough enough already to be able to write about yourself and articulate your skills in a resume. It's even harder though when you are changing to a new field and need those skills to land you work in a different field. Plus, as individuals, we never really see ourselves objectively. Most clients that I work with have a tendency to downplay their accomplishments and underestimate the value that they bring. That's one of the benefits of working with a career coach or resume writer—you get a fresh, neutral perspective.

Earlier this year, I coached a client who wanted to transition from a 13-year career in public education to project management in the corporate world. Talk about transferring your skills! This was obviously a major career transition and one that required going back to school for a certification, and not to mention a complete "re-branding" on her resume and LinkedIn.

In working with her, we listed out the top skills contained in the job descriptions she was interested in. Then I had her brainstorm some examples of how she had demonstrated those skills in her previous roles. As it turns out, project management is at the heart of being a school teacher! Within just a few weeks of applying with her new resume, she was receiving interview requests for project management jobs.

To get you started, here are a few questions that I ask my clients, to help them identify their best skills. Feel free to coach yourself for a minute and apply these questions to yourself.

What do other people tell you that you're good at?

What could you do (or talk about) all day and never get tired of it?

What do you do at work that you get compliments on?

Our goal is to figure out what skills you possess that are valued across multiple industries. In 2016, LinkedIn surveyed over 1,300 hiring managers and uncovered some of the top soft skills that employers are looking for, which include adaptability, collaboration, leadership, and prioritization. If you are struggling to think of your transferable skills, start with these that I just listed and brainstorm ways that you have demonstrated those skills.