The big challenge of switching career fields is the inevitable mismatch between your past experience and the specific job requirements. Yet, your transferrable skills will be greater than you might first guess.
Sure, what you did in the last job will be different from what you need to do in the next one. And when you hear the phrase, “transferrable skills,” it may sound like an excuse for being under-qualified.
Yet, the truth is that the skills you developed in your past job will help you perform, even if you are coming from an entirely different space.
The challenge is communicating the value of these skills to the interviewer in your next interview. When done well, your unique background can become an advantage in the interview (and on the job). It can provide you with a unique perspective from the average industry insider.
Okay, so you may not believe that your jobs skills transfer. Here are a couple examples to consider:
Any parent of a three or four year old has developed their talents in win-win negotiating tactics, which can serve well at any conference table.
And the chef Gordon Ramsey from Kitchen Nightmares could help businesses in any industry succeed by helping them focus on the few key areas where they can differentiate from the competition, ensure a healthy profit margin on these items, and get rid of excess inventory and problem causing people.
The key is to differentiate between the technical skills and the analytical skills. Your knowledge of the operations of certain software won’t transfer. Yet whatever fundamental goal this software helped you with will be relevant.
If you want to make a career switch, you should inventory all of your analytical skills and the experiences you have that prove these skills. Once you’ve done this inventory, you will be better positioned to reshape your resume, write more targeted cover letters and be more persuasive in your interviews.
You may be wondering how this would be useful to a career transition. Here’s how you can make use of this inventory to prepare for your next interview in a new industry.
First read through the new job description a couple of times. If there are any terms that you aren’t familiar with, search for them on the web, and get a basic sense of what they mean. Think about what work you would need to do to related to these items. Then write this more familiar language on the job description.
Next, cross out the unfamiliar terms from the job description. Now take a look for other critical terms. Circle any that seem to appear multiple times. For example, if it says manage multiple projects three times, you know that is important
Now make a list of the top five skills the job requires, and next to these items, make a list of your past experiences that are the most relevant to these skills. It doesn’t matter if these experiences are in an entirely different space. Do the best you can to think about what is transferrable.
Finally, prepare short stories that explain how you used these relevant skills in your past experiences, and the specific results you created. And of course, practice these responses until you feel comfortable.
Bonus points: Think about the specific problems this new position requires you to solve and how you would uniquely solve these problems based on the experiences you had in your last job. Stories here can help you as well.
Switching careers can be challenging, yet if you know how all of your skills transfer, the move will go a lot smoother.