The 4 Transferable Skills You Must Highlight To Successfully Change Careers

One of the toughest parts of changing careers is the fact that you don’t feel you like you have the skill set to make the jump. The imposter syndrome of entering into a new field of work without the proper skills is real and it is intimidating.

I have definitely been down that road before.

If you’re like me, you’ll want to go into a new career confident that you have all the skills to do the job well.

But the truth is, most successful people make the jump before they feel ready. Most people don’t have the exact skill set they need to do a job well and have to learn along the way. When it comes down to it, the secret to successfully changing careers is all in how you market yourself.

I actually think that’s the key to most of life. If you are looking into changing careers, you may not have the exact experience or education or skill set that is required for that position, so it’s even more important that you are able to sell the transferable skills you do have to convince an employer to take a chance on you over a candidate that may have more experience.

I’ve worked in so many different industries. From travel to government to IT to academia to security services, and even as an au pair and every time I stepped into a new career, I never had the exact skill set that was required from the job.

And while yes, there are a certain number of technical skills that you will need when changing careers, (you can’t become a graphic designer without knowing how to use photoshop), there are also 4 key transferable skills that can apply to almost every job in any industry.
The ability to market yourself, even when you don’t have years of industry experience in a new field is an invaluable skill to have. So if you are looking into changing careers, make sure that you highlight these 4 transferable skills to make a lasting impression (even if you don’t have years of experience).

Let’s get started in faking it until we make it.


1. Communications

It is ah-mazing, the number of people who don’t know how to write a proper email or speak to a client in a professional manner. Communication skills are the backbone of every company and it is definitely the one of the most transferable skills you can bring into any new job.

What are communication skills exactly? It’s how you interact with everyone from your manager, to your colleagues, and to your clients. Here are some examples of communication skills you need to highlight:

– Listening: Being an active listener is so important. In every job, you will have to deal with unhappy clients, colleagues, and employees. The ability to actively listen to another person is not only important in problem-solving and conflict resolution, but it’s also important to just being a team player.

– Clarity and Concision: Being able to clearly state what you need, how you feel, and give/receive direction is a crucial part of every role and every organization.

– Empathy and Respect: You have to be a nice person. No matter how talented you are no one wants to work with someone who is rude and disrespectful.

– Friendliness and Open-Mindedness: Most organizations will have a variety of different types of people on their team. It’s the 21st century, so being open and friendly to everyone in an organization is a key skill to that every millennial must have – especially if you’re asking the employer to hire you over someone with more experience.
More and more, companies that are not only looking for people with the technical skills to do a job, but they are also looking for great people to work with.

Employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers the people.

I’ve reworked the quote a little there, but employers know that, especially with the millennial generation, they seek to work in companies that where they like the people. Ain’t no one got time to stick around in a toxic environment and employers want to cultivate a good working environment. Make sure you highlight your soft transferable skills when speaking to an employer and how much value you can bring to the team and to the clients. In my experience, it’s always best to include clients because they are the ones paying the company.


2. Taking Initiative

Taking initiative and leading projects will never go out of style.

Now, you may be thinking “I’ve never led a massive campaign or spear-headed a multimillion-dollar initiative that changed the company.”

Yeah, me neither.

But taking initiative is such an impressive quality and a transferable skill that can be re-framed in the smallest but super impactful ways.

Do you ever get bored at work? When work is slow?

And you start re-writing some of the manuals, or follow up with some clients on their latest experience, or work on a project to help increase efficiency in the office.

That’s all taking initiative.

Even if it’s a follow-up call to a client, colleague or supervisor, or creating a template for the team, these are all small initiatives that you can highlight when making a career change.

Employers will always be impressed by candidates who go above and beyond their role.

Personally, I’ve found that I work more efficiently than the average person. People think it’s because I’m super productive but in truth, I’m actually naturally lazy so I find the most efficient way to do everything.

So I find small ways to find to improve the team and my organization on my downtime. It’s nothing life-changing because I don’t have that much time, but there are small pockets of time here and there where I can make small improvements.

It’s not always the project that impresses an employer; it’s the fact that you take initiative without being told. Managers are busy, supervisors are busy, and they have their own jobs to do, So highlighting this as one of your transferable skills allows employers to know they can trust you, even if the workload is slow and you’re not just going to scroll through social media (that stereotype, I know *eyeroll*).

It’s also the one of the only transferable skills that can not be taught.

3. Willingness To Learn


Learning is a timeless skill.

I can’t think of any industry that doesn’t require some kind of educational update at some time or another. Especially in today’s globalized world, everything changes so quickly, and again, I don’t know of any company that also doesn’t use software which will inevitably need to be updated.

So always take every learning opportunity as it comes and keep track of it on a document along with your resume. For me, I have one master copy of all of my experience on one resume so I can pull from it whenever I’m applying for a job and want to cater my experience for that position.

For example: If you take a workshop on conflict negotiations or working with people of different personalities (I’ve a lot of tests similar to Myer’s Brigg on how to work with people better), write it down. Those things count as additional education that demonstrate not only your ability to learn, but it expands your skill set.

And if you don’t have the opportunity at your workplace to take courses or workshops to increase your skills, look online! Udemy, edX, and Skillshare are online learning platforms that have tons and tons of free courses that you can take. Taking the initiative to learn demonstrates that you are an open-minded employee.

This is always an important transferable skill to highlight but it is even more important when you are changing careers and need to demonstrate you are willing to learn new skills required for the job.

4. Time Management

And lastly, something every employer wants to see is someone who can work efficiently. Time management skills are not something to be taken lightly because really, almost any job is teachable. But time is money to an employer and something that is not teachable is the ability to be organized and prioritize workloads. No manager will set your exact schedule for you and tell you exactly what to do at one time of the day. Unless, it’s a super micro-manager, which means you probably don’t want to work for them anyways.

Being able to have effective time management skills is a must for anyone looking into switching careers and this includes your ability to:

– Prioritize
– Delegate
– Multi-Task
– And set goals and follow deadlines.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the most talented person in the world and can execute a project perfectly. If you don’t have the time management skills to follow a deadline to a client than it’s really not of interest to an employer. Make sure you really highlight this transferable skill to prioritize, because everyone loves a person that actually gets work done.

Changing careers can be very stressful, but it doesn’t have to be.

Remember that when you are changing careers, you have a lot more to offer than just technical skills. Highlighting these 4 transferable skills will make you a stand out candidate even when you are up against people that have higher credentials and more experience. And lastly, with every job search, lead with confidence. If you struggle with nerves before a job interview, I recommend you read this article next for my 3 step process on how to overcome anxiety before an interview.

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