As the world of work continues to evolve, savvy job-seekers are increasingly relying on their transferable skills to move into new roles and industries. Some people even say transferable skills might be the new experience.
Ecommerce is a great example. Selling via the Internet requires a whole new set of skills. When this field first emerged there were no courses or training opportunities. Candidates used their transferrable skills from sales, marketing or IT to move across and grab these exciting roles. It’s the same with other new fields such as nanotechnology or neuroeconomics.
Just think of search engine optimisation and data analysis roles. When these jobs were born a little over a decade ago, no-one had the exact skills needed. It was their transferrable skills that were used as experience for a foot in the door.
What this all means is that the old career rules that you need experience specific to the job are changing and increasingly the exact technical experience isn’t always essential if you have high-quality transferrable skills.
The advance of automation
Automation is coming in many industries. But that can be a positive. Automation is simply another evolution of the tools we have available to us. Just as the Internet brought with it a plethora of new job titles, so too will further automation. As a result, new opportunities will continue to arise, some that we aren’t even aware of yet.
We live in a time where the skillsets needed for many jobs are changing faster than organisations can recruit for them. This creates a skills gap and this is where transferable skills play an integral role. People who possess leadership skills, people skills, problem-solving abilities, creativity and other valuable transferable skills will likely find themselves well equipped to handle a changing job market.
Transferable skills transcend the tech industry
Don’t look at a job description and say to yourself: “I can’t do that”. You may not be able to be a ballet dancer or sculptor, but chances are there are many roles in other industries you can do.
Don't look at a job description and say to yourself: “I can't do that”. You may not be able to be a ballet dancer or sculptor, but chances are there are many roles in other industries you can do.
Robert Half’s Andrew Brushfield sees many candidates who have sold their transferrable skills as experience. A classic example, he says, are teachers whose expertise transcend many industries.
“We have had many ex teachers go into recruitment and have done a great job,” says Brushfield. “They are able to multi task, to handle time pressure, and are very competent at presenting and communicating in a manner that a lot of people understand. They can simplify potentially complex messages easily,” he says.
Brushfield has placed many candidates from accounting backgrounds into software sales, highlighting their transferrable skills as experience. Some, he says, start by selling accounting software because it’s something they know, and then move onto selling other packages.
How to leverage your transferable skills
If you want to make the most of your transferrable skills in your resume and cover letter, then focus on what you bring to the role not what you don’t have. Look at the job description and the key skills, says Brushfield, and tie your transferrable skills to those.
Narrative is becoming increasingly important in selling yourself. The more real life examples of the benefits of your transferrable skills the better.
When applying for the job concentrate on these skills and how they will benefit the new organisation. Outline how your skill could be used in the job. It may be as simple as having a positive attitude and a passion for people. You could sell those transferrable skills to get a role in a totally different industry in a service or sales role. Data analysis is another good example. If you can analyse data, you can apply those skills to market research, financial planning, insurance and the recruitment to name a few.
By showing how your transferrable skills link to a new industry you also demonstrate that you’ve done your homework and thought about the role on offer.
Finally, you’ve worked hard for your transferrable skills and really do need to leverage them. Think positively about what you can do and sell this as your experience.