We All Have Transferable Skills

by on April 9, 2014

I participate in a number of different networking groups which support those in career transition.  Most of those groups have social media which help group members to communicate between meetings.  An introductory note from one participant caught my eye a few weeks back.  She introduced herself and explained the type of work she did.  The note indicated also the type of industry that she had been in for most of her career.  I recognized it as an industry that was definitely feeling the effects of what may best be termed “retrenching”.  Retrenching is when industries begin to shrink in size or importance, usually because alternative ways of doing things come to the forefront.  The classic example I can think of this is how about 15 to 20 years ago video stores were popular in terms of providing movies that we can view at home.  Over time that changed as items such as pay per view, movie downloads on your computer or even now hand held device, replaced the need to go to the video store.  If you are one employed in an industry that is retrenching, it ultimately means it is time to look for a new job (or hope you can hang onto one of the fewer remaining positions in the industry).

I ultimately facilitated a session on transferable skills for one of the job support networking groups I lead.  It was both a very popular and participative session.  Those present agreed, both knowing the skills you possess and identifying how they are transferable to other career disciplines, is a must for survival not only in the job market of today, but in the employment world going forward.  Among the reasons to know your transferable skills are:

  • You may be dissatisfied with your career and are looking for a change.
  • You are currently in a “retrenching industry”
  • New technologies or methodologies are being introduced into the industry.
  • You relocate to a different area and your industry or job type is not prevalent there.
  • New opportunities emerge of which you want to take advantage

While some skills are learned through studies and obtaining degrees or certification, others are ones which may have been always part of your life.  For example you may have shown skills such as Organization, Coordination and Management from the time you chose to open your first lemonade stand when you were a youngster.  Others may have shown Mechanical abilities or Writing Abilities or have always felt comfortable Speaking in front of others.  To really get an appreciation for the skills and abilities you have displayed, one owes it to themselves to emerge in self assessment.  While reflection will help in doing this, there are also several tools and exercises to help one do so.  Most career coaches or counselors with whom you speak are bound to have several of which you can partake.

Knowing your skills is one thing.  Getting a sense of industries where they may be a good fit is another.  Therefore being open to search and discovery of where your skills are a good fit is essential.  Among steps one can take are:

  • Read industry articles/trade journals on fields of interest.
  • Make networking contacts and get to know people in those fields.  Ask them about what they feel are important skills/characteristics for someone in that discipline.
  • Attend association meetings the profession you are interested in may have.
  • Do volunteer or part-time work in the field to learn it better.
  • Be persistent in your inquiries and questions as you express to others your interest in becoming a part of that profession.

Changing careers or moving to another type of work is not easy.  However, the alternative is leaving oneself open to definition by others as to what you can and cannot do.  What would make you want that to yourself?  Yes, taking the time to know yourself better and identifying distinctly the skills you have takes time and effort.  There may be resistance and roadblocks from others along the way as you attempt to move them to a new line of work.  However, in a world where job professions and places of employment come and go, one’s ability to move from opportunity to opportunity and knowing the skills needed to make such moves, may determine their ultimate survival in the world of employment.

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