Transitioning careers: A How To

How to transition careers

Transferable skills. Everything you’ve done required some level of skill.

Jacquie Liversidge

By Jacquie Liversidge

Transitioning careers can be enormously difficult. At some point in all of our lives, we have wondered whether the career we are in is:

a) something we actually want and enjoy

b) sustainable for our personal plans

c) going to lead to professional development

d) …. the right pay packet

Transitioning careers doesn’t need to be as difficult as it is.

For every experience and job you have had and worked in your life, you have gained a new skill.

Motherhood? Time management, endurance, patience.

Hospitality? Meeting and exceeding customer expectations, conflict resolution, working in a time driven environment.

By making a list of all the skills you have learnt or used, you can start to develop a list of transferable skills from the industries you have been in, to the industry you are going in to.

Your resume may not communicate your transferable skills clearly, but this is where your cover letter comes in really handy.

What are transferable skills?

Transferable skills relate to skills you currently have which can transfer over into the role you are applying for. You might only possess a few directly relatable skills to the role, and that’s fine; just make sure that you make a big deal of those skills which you can transfer to the new role.

Your transferable skills are absolutely key when transitioning careers. What does your proposed new role or industry generally require from applicants, and how you have you demonstrated these in past roles?

A scenario:

Mary is moving from a long history of retail into a position within administration. Her current resume has the following skills listed:

  • Responding to customer inquiries
  • Maintaining a high standard of presentation of displays
  • Meeting and exceeding sales KPI’s
  • Unloading stock
  • Managing inventory

The position description of the administration role she is applying for would like the following skills:

  • Ability to build relationships with stakeholder
  • Strong computer skills
  • Financial data entry understanding
  • Payroll experience (desirable)
  • Managing suppliers accounts

Mary is stuck. She hasn’t had any of this experience, but knows that she can do the job.

This is where her wording of her transferable skills is going to be important.

Here is an example of what Mary should say in her covering letter:

Throughout my career in retail I have developed my ability to work with regular customers and ensure customer retention. Working closely with Head Office, I implemented self-initiated customer retention strategies by intentionally forming relationships and notifying regular customers of sales that we have on. (These customers were just her friends who liked the shoe sales… but that doesn’t matter).

Part of my role was to collate the sales data at the end of each closing day. I used Microsoft Excel to enter the sales data for the day and entered data into our in-house software for inventory management and re-ordering. This required an excellent, unsupervised understanding of the software and strict attention to detail for entries. (Knocks off strong computer skills and financial data).

Though I don’t have specific payroll experience, I am comfortable with entering my own pay into our system, understand the laws surrounding pay and the dissemination of pay-slips, and as a fast-learner I am confident that I would grasp payroll easily. (Honesty… It’s important; and valued)

The in-house software that I use within my current position goes directly to Head Office for approval before orders are sent to suppliers. I regularly liaise with suppliers regarding stock shortages and issues, delivery times and any other questions that suppliers may have for the store (this only happened once; but it did happen).

I have developed excellent relationships with the regular suppliers as a consequence, and am confident that this skill would be an excellent fit within the position.”

It’s that easy!

But you have to plan.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I bring?

  • What do they want?

  • What do I think they want?

And then:

Be what they want.

We hope that’s given you a better understanding of where to start with transitioning careers. It’s the approach we take, and it’s the approach that works.

We have plenty more free job goodies in store for you. So stay tuned!

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