Most people in the workforce change roles and even careers several times. It is no longer considered unusual. In fact, you should be prepared, because the unexpected—such as a pandemic—can easily derail your career path and destroy your confidence. But knowing how to assess your transferable skills and match them to employers’ requirements will help you stay on course.
What are transferable skills? Generally, they are the non-technical skills you need to be successful. Many of them are also called “soft skills,” because they are not skills you need a certificate or degree to master. They are skills that help us get along with others, think critically, and manage situations. These are important, because the ability to navigate relationships and reason through circumstances is the differentiator between two employees who have the same “hard” technical skills. In a competitive hiring situation, having these skills and achievements around them can be your key to getting hired.
For example, if you are moving from fundraising to sales, you probably know how to research a prospect and use a CRM system, just like others being interviewed. But your transferable skills such as relationship-building and customer service, when highlighted, can put you ahead of the other candidates.
If you are in the job market, you probably will have to consider how your skills transfer from one industry or role to another. You have competition, and you must stand out. It’s often not an exact match – until you look more closely.
Here are some transferable skills examples to consider mentioning among the listed skills on your resume:
- Problem Solving
- Customer Service
- Organizational skill
- Managing People
- Managing Change
- Goal Setting
- Time Management
But you might be wondering how to come up with the list in the first place. Here is a quick way to assess what transferable skills might work for a new position:
- Make a list of everything that is required for the new job. A great place to supplement that information is by using resources such as O*Net, managed by the U.S. Department of Labor. You can visit the site to look up your targeted position and get a breakdown of essential transferable skills.
- Make a list of everything you know how to do for your current job. Make sure to include the “softer” skills that correlate with the list above.
- Look at your two lists. I’m betting you are finding some matches. For instance, the description may say “responsible for cultivating and maintaining relationships among business partners.” You have listed that you built relationships with community organizations as part of your fundraising job, or you have sought expertise from other companies and partnered with them to finish a project. There are probably many ways that you built and sustained relationships that benefited your employer.
Once you realize this, you will be able to confidently list “Relationship Management” and “Business Partnerships” among your skills and know that, even though they are called something different than “Cultivating Donors” or “Community Building” as they might in the nonprofit realm, they are really the same things. And you will know that when asked to talk about them, you will have no problem.
After you complete this exercise, you may discover that you meet 50% of the skills required for that job. Go ahead and apply!
But be sure you can prove you have these skills. How you showcase these soft skills on your resume makes a difference.
As you develop your resume and write cover letters to employers, make sure that you can support the skills you have listed with accomplishments that show you can use these skills effectively. It is not enough to simply list that you have transferable (or any) skills. Be sure to give examples of how you helped your employers using these required skills.
One way is to use the “CAR” technique.
For each highlighted skill, ask yourself:
Challenges: What big challenges did I face in this area?
Actions: What specific actions did you take to overcome them?
Results: What was the impact of your work?
Here are some examples of CAR-based transferable skills accomplishments. Here, the transferable skills are highlighted as categories – drawing attention directly to them – with proof provided:
Managing Change: Mitigated the effects of a $50M revenue shortfall by creating a policy affecting direct marketing efforts. Reduced the loss by 88% in 8 months.
Leadership: Resolved turnover problems by reducing staff retention rates from 15% to 13% with a professional development program to help employees improve their skills.
So, next time you read a job posting, scan the requirements. If you see unfamiliar terminology that doesn’t seem applicable to your career history – and yet, you know you have the skills for this job – consider matching the listed skills to your own. You might discover that they compare favorably, even though they are labeled differently. Now you are ready to make your case!
Confused? Overwhelmed? Contact me so I can help. Ruth@confidencecareerserach.com.