Ah … transferable skills. One of my favorite topics. Why? Because they can get you where you need to go without having the exact skills required for a new job. Now, I’m not telling you this always works, but transferable skills are a great addition to your job search tool kit!
When you’re going through career change or career transition — or simply just trying to find a new job — sometimes your history of job skills doesn’t precisely match the job description. You might actually have the skills you’ll need for the new job, but you need to help them see it. And that’s where transferable skills come in.
So what exactly are transferable skills?
They’re skills that you’ve used before in your other jobs. Or maybe other places like personal projects or volunteer work. And they can be used again once you get to your new job, just in a different way. Also they can help you win the job to begin with.
While your transferable skills may not be evident in your resume as written up to now, you aren’t stuck with that resume version. By identifying and highlighting them in your resume and cover letter, you help make your case for being “rightly qualified.”
An example of transferable skills from my own background
In the past, I’ve been an IT Project Manager. And let’s say that now I want to be an Office Manager. If I leave my resume as is, I will be making my cover letter do a lot of heavy lifting to try to make my case.
But I can help things along by shifting the focus of my resume. First, I can de-emphasize all the parts that may detract from my new goal of Office Manager. And then make sure to think of and highlight every skill that could apply to the new role.
NOTE: In this case, you can use a sample Office Manager job description to help guide you. Or better yet, use the one from the job you’re applying for if you have one.
So what would my new resume look like?
In my new resume, I can make sure to talk about problem solving, organizing skills, supervisory experience. (Perhaps “supervisory” better than saying “management”, since I have a lot of management experience. And they may feel I’m overqualified.)
In addition, I can add recruitment experience, maintaining records, developing policies and procedures, handling customer complaints and inquiries, and maintaining budgets. Also working well with upper management to make sure their goals are achieved. Not lying … just shifting focus of real experience to match the new job.
Gee … looks like I am ideally suited for Office Manager after all! How did I ever get all that other work done with these skills waiting and eager to be used to their fullest? 🙂
Rightly qualified after all
All those skills, which I’ve transferred from my former career, totally make me a good fit with the qualifications to be an Office Manager. You still have to be able to sell this “reframing” and convince them you are sincere. But at least now you’re helping them to see you in a more rightly-qualified light!
So basically, transferable skills include skills you’ve always used, although perhaps not your current job’s primary skills. And, by extracting these skills from your overall experience, you can re-aim them to match you to the new job. One that might even fit you more than the one you have now, especially if you enjoy using those skills. Transferable and marketable. A potentially powerful combo.
[This article updated in 2020]