Being in the field of HR, people often seek my advice about job search, opportunities and writing resumés.
There are also cases where a person wishes to switch to a different career, but not sure if their valuable experience that accumulated over the years are relevant to the new career. It worries them that they may have to start from scratch. The answer is NO – transferable skills will take care of that.
What are transferable skills? Essentially, these are skills that you can take with you from one job to another, and from one situation to another. These skills may be acquired during any activity like your previous jobs, hobbies, sports or school. Although the tasks performed in these activities are not exactly the same job as the one you want to apply for, you may already have acquired the skills that you can transfer to that job.
Richard Nelson Bolles, Career Expert and Author of the bestseller What color is your parachute? A practical manual for job-hunters and career changers, pioneered the idea of transferable skills in his book. According to him, people are born with skills applicable from job to job. He indicated that these transferable skills could be classified into three categories: things (i.e. operating computers, assembling and repairing); data (researching, compiling data and record keeping); and people (communicating, coaching and supervising).
How do you identify your transferable skills? The first step is to review the required skills on the job posting you’re applying for. You may not meet all of them, but look closely for the skills that are somehow related to the skills you developed through your other activities (i.e. previous jobs, hobbies, education, etc.).
As an example, in one of the classes I took in the HR program at the U of M, I had a classmate in my project group that worked as a call centre representative and was looking into transitioning into human resources. One might ask, how is it possible that a person who worked on the telephones possess the skills to work in HR? Well, first of all, she was already working her way to get the education required to work in the field, so that’s a bonus. When you’re in HR, people skills are a big part of the job. In this case, even though she did not have the HR job experience, she could still highlight her experience at the call centre whether it’s providing advice or service to clients or her listening skills and patience when handling inquiries and complaints from clients.
The next step is to sell your transferable skills to the employer via your resumé. When writing your resumé, be sure to demonstrate your qualifications by showcasing your transferable skills on paper. You can start with creating a section where it says, “Highlights of related skills”, then think about how your skills match with the requirements, similar to the example I cited in this article.
A lot of people sell themselves too short, simply because of their uncertainty about how their skills match with the requirements of the job. Career experts say that career changers often have low levels of confidence. The key is to be bold and to sell your transferable skills if you really want your prospective employer to take a chance on your talent and skills. Always remember that although the skills you earned were from a different career, you have a lot to offer based on the transferable skills that you have established.
Michele Majul is an HR Professional with Canada Post Corporation in Prairie Region. She graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and a Certificate in Human Resource Management.
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