Effective Career Transition

The average adult will change jobs around 12 times in their life. That means a lot of time and energy put into career transitions. Whether you want a change of environment at a new company or are looking for a job in a different industry, knowing how to identify your transferable skills is essential to today’s worker.

Most industries have a variety of “hard” skills that set them apart from other jobs. Software, equipment, and specific knowledge and other “hard” skills are usually only transferable between very similar jobs. If you are looking to make a career shift between industries, emphasize your “soft” skills. These are less tangible and include things like emotional intelligence, listening skills, leadership, and teamwork.“Soft” skills are useful additions to your resume when you lack the “hard” skills required for a role.

To identify your transferable skills, professional career planner Dawn Rosenberg McKay suggests sorting your skills into six basic categories: basic (aka “soft”), people, management, clerical, research and planning, and computer and technical. Then, sort the skills listed in the job description of a job you want. Notice the overlap and emphasize those skills in your resume and interviews.

Former journalist Nick Gamache, who worked as a producer for the CBC before taking a position in Media Relations at Elections Canada, understood what he had when it came to transferable skills. He says his time with the CBC prepared him for his next role by giving him “the ability to consider a situation or an issue from multiple angles, even unexpected ones.” He also notes, “I learned to work quickly and under constant pressure.I also spent a lot of time thinking about what it takes to communicate effectively.”

After you identify your transferable skills, it’s time to emphasize them to potential employers. Recruiter and career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine explains that “It is on you, not the employer, to establish that your skill is valuable. It is on you to understand the new industry or role well enough that you can explain how your skill is transferable. It is on you to share an example of how you would apply that skill in the new environment.”

How exactly do you do that?

Get some proof. Volunteering or having work samples show employers that you really do know your stuff. Having strong references to vouch for your skills gives you some clout over the other applicants. When explaining your transferable skills in an interview, avoid using jargon or industry-specific language. Instead, explain your experience in more general terms and illustrate how you can apply it to the position you’re applying for.

No matter how big of a shift you make in your career, having transferable skills can make you more appealing to potential employers. Be positive and creative when identifying your skill set--you may surprise even yourself at how many transferable skills you have!