By Kim Isaacs
A significant challenge career changers face is preparing a winning resume. After all, it's arduous enough when you have ample related experience. Writing this crucial document becomes even more painstaking when you're looking to take a completely new career direction.
Your saving grace: Transferable skills.
What Are Transferable Skills?
Career expert Richard Nelson Bolles pioneered the idea of transferable skills in his perennial bestseller What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers. According to Bolles, we are all born with skills we take from job to job. These transferable skills can be broken down into three categories: people (communicating, teaching, coaching and supervising), data (record keeping, researching, translating and compiling data) and things (operating computers/equipment, assembling and repairing).
If you take the time to identify your transferable skills, you can convince employers that you have the core skills necessary to excel in your new career choice.
Where to Find Transferable Skills
- Job Ads: Search for your target job on Monster, and review the skills it requires. You may not possess all of them, but look for skills that are somehow related to those you developed via another career, hobby or educational pursuit.
For example, a teacher making the transition to sales might find that presentation, organizational and interpersonal skills are desirable for salespeople. She could then highlight her experience giving daily group presentations, creating and launching educational programs, and building team morale. All of these are examples of transferable skills you may overlook, because they come easily to you.
- Occupational Information Network (O*NET): This site provides a keyword search tool that lists job skills based on career field. Search the list for those of your skills you can transfer to your new industry, and check out this list of all-purpose skills.
- Industry Networking: Speak with workers in your desired field, read trade publications, study employer Web sites, network at industry events and connect with industry associations to learn which skills are important. Once you have a good understanding of desirable skills, you'll know which ones to emphasize.
Identify Your Transferable Skills
Career coach Christine Edick works closely with her career-change clients to identify transferable skills. In one exercise, she asks them to create a chart of old job skills, new job skills and transferable skills. "Most clients find that they have at least 50 percent of transferable skills needed for their new job," she says. The following chart can help you map your transferable skills:
Old Job Skills Skills Required for New Job Transferable? Related Accomplishments Skill #1 Yes/No Skill #2 Yes/No Skill #3 Yes/No Skill #4 Yes/No Skill #5 Yes/No Skill #6 Yes/No Skill #7 Yes/No Skill #8 Yes/No
Show Your Transferable Skills
Demonstrate you're qualified for your career change by prominently displaying your transferable skills on your resume. "Showcasing transferable skills upfront helps the human reader see the keywords they are looking for, and then they can look to other parts of the resume for more details," Edick says.
Your transferable skills may be included as a key skills list within your qualifications summary. You can lead with a statement like, "Highlights of my related skills include:" followed by a bulleted list of your transferable skills.
Back up your transferable skills by including examples of how you successfully used the skills in another career field or other experience. Edick uses the CAR (challenge, actions, results) approach by asking her clients:
- Challenge: What were some of the challenges you faced?
- Actions: What actions did you take to overcome the challenges?
- Results: What were the results of your work?
"That way, career changers build confidence that the basic skills they developed in one career transfer to a new career," Edick says. The CAR stories can be added to a key accomplishments section to demonstrate previous success using these transferable skills.