When you enter the words career change into Google, as you scroll through your search it’s inevitable that you see the words, transferrable skills with generic headings like ‘Top 5 skills you need to be successful’ or ‘The 7 transferrable skills to help you change careers.’ When I see headlines like this or similar I start to struggle, because if you really want to make a career change that is going to complement your life, is going to enable you to thrive it’s not about developing your skills in 5 or 7 areas it’s about figuring out what skills you have that you like to use and where you may find a career that uses them. It’s about recognizing your individualism and what you want from your life. Who do you want to be in your career? What do you want to have from your career and what do you want it to enable you to do? While these articles make interesting reading, treat them with caution, because if you want to find that thriving career you need to find a career that fits you and not one that you are squeezing yourself into, not 5 skills that you are trying to prove to others that you have but in fact you hate using!
Let's take a step back and start with the term itself. A transferrable skill is any skill that you can take from one job to another. For example, a teacher standing in front of a classroom of pupils explaining concepts to them will be using the same transferrable skills as a fitness instructor teaching safe technique in an exercise class. Both require clear communication and the ability to break down information into easy to digest segments. Consider the skills of cabin crew; they are looking after the needs of their passengers making sure they have a safe and comfortable flight not dissimilar to a nurse listening to the needs of their patient and interpreting these into action. An accountant needs to have an eye for detail just like someone designing and building websites. So before you let the fear creep in that you can’t do anything different to your current job, spend time breaking it down and think about what skills you use, and of those skills which do you enjoy using.
Now maybe you are thinking, well Kerrie this is all very interesting, but how do I figure out what my favourite transferrable skills are? Don’t worry I hear you! With my own career change clients, we spend a lot of time working through this very question and here is a modified version of one of the exercises we do.
Think about your career history to date and identify the high points when you felt your happiest, when you overcame a challenge, when you felt you were rocking and rolling. Take each of them in turn and think about what you were actually doing, get into the detail and write it down. If you were recruiting someone to do that job at that particular time, what would be the skills you would be asking candidates to have? If you are struggling with this, search google for a list of transferrable skills and identify each of those you displayed in each high point. Once you have finished, review your list and see if there are some consistent themes, are there two or three skills that you are consistently demonstrating? Now when you are considering a career change it is these skills that you are good at and enjoy using that could give you valuable insight into what jobs could be a good fit for you.
As you progress through your career change journey and start to apply for jobs you will need to help prospective hiring managers appreciate that while you have not occupied a similar role before you have valuable transferrable experience. Don’t leave it to them to figure this out, but reflect it throughout your CV by highlighting the transferrable skills that are relevant to the job you are applying for. As you prepare for your interview have examples of those important transferrable skills ready to share.
If you are planning to take your career in a new direction you will have many skills that will stand you in a strong position and sometimes we don’t realise until we have made the transition, how our previous jobs have prepared us.
Now as you start to think about the direction of your next career move, take away these three things
- Recognise that to be truly happy in a job you need to find a job that fits you.
- Identify your transferrable skills, those you are good at but more importantly those you enjoy using.
- Help your hiring manager understand your experience in these skills by highlighting them in your CV and giving examples in interviews.