If you’ve spent years, decades even, in the same profession or field, you don’t have start completely anew. All those hours, years and pounds spent studying at university, climbing a career ladder, or studying that MBA, can be useful in a new job, even in a completely new sector. The answer is to turn your experience into transferable skills; you just have to learn to recognise and sell them to new employers.
Need help? Here's everything you need to know about identifying, applying and marketing your transferable skills.
What are transferable skills?
Transferable skills are talents you've acquired that can help an employer but that aren't immediately relevant to the job you seek. Experiences like volunteer work, hobbies, sports, previous jobs, university coursework or even life happenings can lead you to find these skills.
Any skill is transferable; the trick is showing employers how it applies and is useful to them.
Identify transferable skills
With so much experience -- on work and on a personal level - the thought of sifting through it to recognise your applicable skills might sound scary. But, it's not as hard as you think.
Asking yourself questions like, 'What are my three favourite accomplishments?' or 'What activities make me the happiest?' will help you find your transferable skills easily.
Evaluate your whole life, not just professional experiences. The point is to determine skill strengths. Use a framework of school, job, personal and organisational activities to determine your relevant accomplishments.
Start with the job you seek and identify the three most important abilities you'll need to do that job well. Then, look over your experience and describe what you've done before in terms of what you want to do next. Think of it from the company’s point of view – you need to have a well-crafted, customised CV and cover letter to stand out from the pile on their desk or the list in their inbox.
Apply transferable skills to your CV
You have to create a CV and cover letter specific to each job you apply for.
Organise your CV by skill area or accomplishments rather than chronologically or functionally. Categorise all applicable skills, highlights and experiences and group them in categories such as 'professional highlights', 'skills summary' and 'professional experience' and place them at the top of your CV.
For example, John Smith had six years of experience in customer service, but wanted to transition into sales. Smith reworked his skills set by including a profile at the top that showcased his transferable skills.
They talked about the sales-related things John did in customer service, like convincing customers to try new services, described in sales language like up-selling and cross-selling. He talked about how he had ranked at or near the top for training and productivity, because sales are a competitive sport.
Sell your skills to an employer
Most marketable skills can be grouped into broad categories and broken down further based on the job you're applying for. For example, communication is a general skill area, which can be broken down into such skills as speaking effectively, writing concisely or negotiation.
You must do all the thinking for the person reading your CV. Don’t expect anyone to figure out your relevant skills or how valuable they would be to the job in question.
To add credibility, add a quote to your CV from past managers or clients to emphasise your transferable skills. After all, a third party endorsement of you is many times more credible and interesting than anything you could say about yourself.
Tony Roy is president of EMEA at CareerBuilder.co.uk