The idea of switching from one job or industry to another can be pretty intimidating. Maybe you’d like to make a change, but feel unqualified to do so. Here’s the good news: you probably have more transferable skills than you realize.
Your past experiences have likely equipped you with certain skills that are universally useful, like communication, organization, or planning. You just need to figure out what your particular strengths are and how you can highlight them in a way that attracts potential employers.
In this post, we explain how to identify and harness your existing skills and experiences to succeed in a new career.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- What Are Transferable Skills?
- Why Transferable Skills Matter
- How to Identify Your Transferable Skills
- Leveraging Transferable Skills for Career Success
WHAT ARE TRANSFERABLE SKILLS?
Transferable skills are abilities and attributes that can be applied across different roles and industries. Unlike technical skills, which are job-specific and can become obsolete, transferable skills are both portable and versatile.
For instance, an ultrasound technician has to know how to operate imaging equipment. That’s an essential skill that only applies to one occupation. However, successful ultrasound techs must also be detail-oriented, methodical, and good with people. Those are adaptable skills that can be assets in almost any job.
Examples of Transferable Skills
Below are some of the most common abilities that appear on any transferable skills checklist.
- Communication: The ability to articulate ideas clearly, both in writing and verbally. Effective communication is essential in any professional setting, whether you’re negotiating with clients, leading a team, or collaborating with colleagues.
- Problem solving: The ability to analyze situations, identify root causes, and develop effective solutions. Problem-solving and analytical skills are invaluable when tackling challenges, making decisions, and adapting to unexpected circumstances.
- Leadership: The ability to guide and motivate others to achieve common goals. Leadership skills aren’t just valued in management roles—they can be applied to leading projects, mentoring colleagues, or even influencing peers positively.
- Teamwork: The ability to collaborate effectively with diverse groups to achieve shared objectives. Teamwork is key in almost every profession, as it fosters creativity, drives productivity, and promotes a harmonious work environment.
- Adaptability: The ability to be flexible and resilient in the face of change. Being able to adapt to new technologies, work processes, and organizational structures is a highly sought-after skill in many industries.
- Time management: The ability to efficiently manage time and priorities to meet deadlines. Strong time management skills ensure that you can balance multiple tasks and responsibilities effectively, contributing to productivity.
- Critical thinking: The ability to evaluate information and make informed decisions. Critical thinking helps you assess situations objectively, weigh the pros and cons, and arrive at the best possible solution.
Many employers value workers who can think critically
WHY TRANSFERABLE SKILLS MATTER
Transferable skills are essential tools that can help you get started in a new career field, even if you have no direct experience or your skillset doesn’t exactly match everything in the job description.
One survey found that over three-quarters of Canadian employers see value in so-called “soft” skills and would be willing to overlook a lack of job-related experience. And in the latest Future of Jobs Report, companies identified creative thinking, analytical thinking, technological literacy, and lifelong learning as the skills that were growing fastest in importance.
Whether you’re an entry-level candidate just starting out or a seasoned professional looking to transition to a new field, playing up your transferable skills can connect the dots for employers and help them see the value you bring to the table.
HOW TO IDENTIFY YOUR TRANSFERABLE SKILLS
The process of skill mapping for a job change begins with determining what you have to offer and then considering which of those skills would help you perform well in your chosen field.
Self-Assessment and Reflection
Think about the kinds of tasks you routinely do (or have done in the past). Looking through past versions of your resume or any previous performance reviews can help here. What responsibilities have you handled? What have you been recognized for? What do you feel most confident doing?
Then, write down the soft skills and traits that helped you complete those tasks successfully. You might discover you’re good at:
- Analyzing information
- Solving problems
- Conducting research
- Writing reports
- Developing positive relationships
- Teaching others
- Thinking creatively
- Communicating complex ideas in plain language
Keep in mind that transferable skills don’t have to come from a job. Consider the abilities you’ve gained through education, volunteering, sports, hobbies, or other community activities.
What have you learned from your past work, school, or other experiences?
Industry-Relevant Transferable Skills
Different industries may prioritize specific transferable skills. Research the sectors you are interested in and identify the skills most valued within those fields.
Let’s say you have experience in teaching but are looking to start a career as an account manager. Both of those careers require strong communication skills related to listening and speaking, building relationships, and giving presentations.
Or maybe you’re a police officer seeking a second career as a mediator. In that case, you’ll want to emphasize your negotiation and conflict resolution skills along with your understanding of human behaviour.
LEVERAGING TRANSFERABLE SKILLS FOR CAREER SUCCESS
Your transferable skills are the key to unlocking new opportunities throughout your career. Here are some strategies to help you leverage them effectively:
Tailor Your Resume and Cover Letter
When transitioning to a new field or seeking a different role, it’s crucial to tailor your resume and cover letter to highlight transferable skills relevant to the desired position. If you have no experience in your target industry, it won’t be immediately obvious what makes you qualified, so you need to be crystal clear about how your unique background can help the organization achieve its goals.
Put your skills front and centre and describe specific instances where you have successfully applied them. Use quantifiable achievements whenever possible to demonstrate the impact of your abilities.
Focus on Networking for a Career Change
It’s essential to connect with professionals in your target industry. They can provide valuable guidance on how to develop, enhance, or position transferable skills to better match the requirements of the new career you want.
Through networking, you can also identify potential mentors who can offer advice on reskilling and upskilling as well as navigating career transitions.
Patrick Weiss drew on his personal connections to help him identify his transferable skills and make the switch from management consulting to user experience design.
“I delved deep into my personal network to find people who could tell me more about the industry and whether there was a place for someone with a business background but no design experience. Through my alumni network, I was amazed to find one person, Rob, who’d actually made a similar transition from management consulting to design,” he told Careershifters.
“Rob ended up referring me for a job at Frog Design, a leading design consultancy, for a position that leveraged my strategy and project management background. It was the foot in the door that I needed.”
Adapt Your Personal Brand
Your personal brand is how you present yourself to the world through your website, portfolio, blog, or social media profiles. When crafting your personal branding for a job switch, the trick is to ensure that your messaging aligns with the transferable skills you want to emphasize.
So use your digital platforms, especially LinkedIn, to highlight your skills transferability, share relevant content, and illustrate your unique value proposition. That will enhance your professional identity and make it easier for your network and potential employers to understand what sets you apart.
By showcasing your transferable skills across various platforms, you can position yourself as a seasoned professional ready to excel in a new and challenging environment.
EXPAND YOUR SKILLS THROUGH PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Want to change careers or advance in your current one? Kompass Professional Development offers a variety of online programs designed to help working professionals grow their skills and embrace new opportunities.
Click below to explore our programs and chat live with a knowledgeable advisor.