Changing Careers? Know Your Transferable Skills

This blog was originally published on Cancer and Careers.

We often hear from survivors whose cancer experience inspired them to finally change careers and/or begin looking for work that they feel will be more meaningful; and a frequently asked question is “Where do I start?” For many, their initial impulse is to engage in some type of professional development course or start actively networking. While these are both appropriate and worthwhile activities, according to a recent article by Après Group, an important and often overlooked first step in this process is to focus on transferable skills — i.e., the professional abilities you already possess that can be applied across a variety of fields and settings. Here are Après Group’s suggestions for how to make transferable skills work for you:

1. Take inventory of the areas in which you have excelled in past or current positions that are likely to serve you well in the role you aspire to. For example, a high school English teacher doing this exercise might identify public speaking, analytical abilities and “people skills” among those that are desired by a variety of industries.

2. Once you feel good about your list, identify those skills that are considered desirable in the field you are targeting. Pro tip: Check out postings on job boards to see how employers have described the roles they’re hiring for, and compare against your list.

3. The next step is to update your resume so the transferable skills you’ve identified are front and center. Two great approaches to doing this are to either create a “Professional Summary” section on your resume or emphasize these skills in the bulleted lists under your various job descriptions.

4. You’ll also want to take the time to talk about transferable skills during an interview, to help hiring managers gauge how well you understand the contributions you can make to a potential employer. The best way to do this? Prepare at least three stories that demonstrate how you’ve applied transferable skills in past jobs.