The 360° View of You: How Transferable Skills Can Help You Make a Career Change
Breaking into a new professional industry can be daunting, especially when it comes time to revise your resume or attend your first job interview in the industry.
You might be unsure about how much of your past experience to share, especially since it doesn’t perfectly align with your desired career. Maybe your resume looks completely different than the skills listed on open roles, so you've been hesitant to start applying for jobs.
Upskilling can help you ramp up in a new field, but it’s not the only way to make your resume shine and your application stand out to hiring managers.
The term “transferable skills” refers to skills and proficiencies candidates can bring from their past experiences into a future role — even if that role is in a totally new industry. Transferable skills help job seekers navigate career changes and showcase their hard and soft skills to potential employers.
As employers combat staffing shortages and skill deficiencies, they’re beginning to take more notice of candidates’ transferable skills. Many are taking a more inclusive approach to the questions they’re asking in interviews and going beyond resume-based assessments to get a complete picture of each candidate.
In this blog, you’ll learn all the need-to-know details about transferable skills, like what they are, how to identify yours, and when to highlight them during your job search.
What Are Transferable Skills?
Transferable skills are skills you can apply to a variety of jobs across industries. They’re extremely useful to bring up during the hiring process, and will also help you succeed in your new role or career field.
Most of us carry transferable skills between jobs, whether we realize it or not. For example, the communication skills you learned working in a fast-paced restaurant environment can help you collaborate with colleagues in an office, on a job site, or in virtually any workplace.
Transferable skills — and professional skills in general — can be divided into two high-level categories: hard skills and soft skills.
Hard skills encompass the technical, software-related skills a candidate needs to complete role-based tasks. Depending on your desired career field, this may include knowledge of a specific programming language, familiarity with popular development and testing tools, or experience with a certain type of data. Upskilling is a great way to master the hard skills you need for a future role, but you might also be able to carry over a few from previous positions.
These skills might not sound very transferable at first, but there are certain ones that can bring value to your new role. For example, if you’ve ever worked with any type of customer relationship management (CRM) software — like Zendesk — you’ll likely be able to master your future employer’s preferred CRM (i.e., Salesforce) with minimal training and ramp time.
Soft skills refer to proficiencies that don’t tie back to any one program or process. Examples include communication, organization, and problem-solving — all of which are highly transferable and adaptable across positions.
You might think that soft skills pale in comparison to their more technical counterparts, but many employers state that soft skills are just as important, if not more important, than tech-related proficiencies. It’s easier to train a new hire on how to use a certain software than it is to teach them how to effectively communicate with others or manage their time.
How to Identify Your Most Valuable Transferable Skills
No matter what your past experiences look like, there are likely transferable skills you can and should consider when contemplating a career change or applying for open roles. Even so, it can be challenging to parse them out of your existing resume, portfolio, or LinkedIn profile.
As you start thinking about your transferable skills, keep these tips in mind:
Assess the functions under each of your previous roles; not the job titles themselves.
Don’t get caught up in the designated titles you held or industries you worked in. Instead, look at the specific functions under each job, like managing a client portfolio, leading team meetings, or monitoring project finances. For example, someone with a background in sales likely possesses strong communication and presentation skills that could apply to many roles.
Contextualize your existing skills within your desired role or industry.
When researching job opportunities, try matching up your skills with those listed in each job description. Even if nothing matches one-to-one, you’ll still find adjacent skills you can pick up with a minimal learning curve. Remember, each role has its own nuances, and most employers are more than willing to help you build upon foundational skills or adjust them to fit your new role.
Prioritize quality over quantity.
It can be tempting to bulk up your resume with as many skills as possible, but this approach only creates extra clutter for recruiters to wade through. Instead, use the skills listed under the role you want to go after as a guide to determine which of your transferable skills to showcase. Then, use your findings to inform what you share online, in your resume, and in conversations with potential employers.
Remember, you don’t have to strictly rely on your work experience to bring up transferable skills. You can include experiences in extracurricular activities, personal projects, and schoolwork too.
Showcasing Transferable Skills During Your Career Change
Once you have a good idea of which skills you can bring along with you to a new role, it’s time to think about how, when, and where to highlight them during your career transition.
On Your Resume
Your resume will often be the first thing a potential employer sees from you, so it’s essential to make a positive first impression. Your resume should include relevant experiences, upskilling achievements, and of course, any transferable skills you bring to the table.
As you build or refine your resume, don’t hide your most relevant skills down in the experience section. Instead, break them out into a designated “Skills” section as a few brief bullet points, like:
- Project Management
- Asynchronous Communication
- User Research
- UX Strategy
- Programming Language Experience
You can also integrate your skills into your cover letter or outreach messages to employers. Rather than focusing solely on why you want to work for that specific organization, include a brief paragraph about yourself and what unique value you could bring to their workforce.
Through Your Online Presence
Your profiles on LinkedIn and other online talent marketplaces, like CareerCircle, are also highly valuable job search tools — and great places to show off your transferable skills. Be sure to add a headline and brief “About” section to all of your online accounts that include mention of your holistic experiences and transferable skills.
Not sure which skills or tendencies to include? A skills assessment can help you identify your intangible strengths and career preferences so you can mention them on your profiles. These insights help you stand out from the crowd and give employers more insight into who you are as a person, not just what you do during your current nine to five.
During a Job Interview
It can be intimidating to bring up your transferable skills during a job interview or phone call with a recruiter. You might think, “What if they don’t find this relevant?” or, “Is this the right time to bring these things up?”
Live interactions are great opportunities for you to bring up transferable skills since they give recruiters and hiring managers the chance to ask follow-up questions. However, that doesn’t mean you should spout off a vague list of talents. Wait for your past experience to come up naturally in the conversation, then provide real-world examples of how you used your skills in a previous role.
For example, just saying, “I have experience managing large projects” isn’t nearly as insightful as, “I once led a ten-person team through a multi-phased marketing campaign, while managing budget, timeline, and team schedules.”
Unlock Transferable Skills and Fuel Your Career Change With CareerCircle
At CareerCircle, we believe candidates are much more than their resumes. We support job seekers with personalized online profiles and give them the tools they need to succeed in today's job market. On the flip side, we challenge employers to #rethinkqualified by changing the way they source and evaluate talent.
As a CareerCircle member, you'll gain access to guidance and resources to power every step of your career change. We'll help you identify your most valuable transferable skills, present them to hiring managers, and expand on them with tech-focused upskilling and training programs.
Ready to get started?