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The myth behind transferable skills

Written by Kimberley Startup | March 21, 2011 | 1 Comment

Career Advice

It is an extremely competitive job searching market out there, especially in today’s climate. The number of applications per job is increasing, but so is the calibre of candidate.

Yet, despite competition being at an all time high, people are still making the decision to change industries relying solely on their transferable skills. So how can you make sure you stand out? The decision to move to another industry based on your transferable skills is not something that should be taken lightly. But it is possible if you market yourself effectively.

Defining transferable skills

What defines a transferable skill? You will be hard pushed to find a definition everyone agrees on, but generally speaking, they are the skills you develop with experience. Communication skills, the ability to lead and effective multitasking skills are just a few examples.

Typically, you will find those who rely on their transferable skills to embark on a career change will find themselves drifting towards managerial appointments.

Eighteen months ago, a large proportion of employers were unwilling to recruit someone who lacked industry expertise. They would argue it takes more time, more resources and more money – a premise driven by what makes business sense.

But as companies begin to rebuild themselves, many are now open to new ideas. The recession will have taught them a very hard lesson, with the importance of a multidisciplinary team and having ‘the right people on the ‘bus’ both high on the agenda.

Identify what you’re good at – and pursue it

It may seem obvious, but if you are ready to put the hard work in that is required to make the leap between industries, make sure to pursue an area you enjoy. Of course it depends on what is available, but to get your foot on the ladder, you may have to assume a more junior-level role as you learn the basics, so make sure it is something you enjoy.

Create a list of what you think you excel at to decide what discipline you should pursue. Also, ask a colleague or friend for their input – after all, something you may think is your strongest skill may in fact be your biggest pitfall.

Finding the right opportunities

In some cases, moving into another industry will require considerable pro activity to overcome the hurdles that lay ahead.

Recruitment agencies seek candidates displaying exact requirements, hiring managers may not have time to train an in-experienced candidate, or the way someone positions their CV can work against them.

But do not be put off. Your job seeking activity should be carried out with one goal: to get an interview. The interview acts as a platform to really shine and show what you are capable of.

Ensuring your CV is considered can be tricky, especially if they look out for keywords, so target jobs with open requirements as well as contacting employers directly to sell your skills from the start.

Break the mould

Once you have secured an interview, the next stage is to position yourself as better than the competition. This is an important premise, especially if you do not have relevant industry background.

Identify ways to give yourself the competitive edge – whether that is gaining industry insight, networking or reading the trade press to brush up on your knowledge. Try anything that reflects the fact that you are willing to put the extra work in.

Some people struggle to get their foot in the door. In this case, break the mould to stand out. Talk to the company’s HR department or experiment with your application. Try creating two versions of your CV to find out what works best. We all know when it comes to CVs one size doesn’t fit all – but who says you cannot have a number of them? Especially in today’s volume-driven market it may pay dividends to give your application the creative edge.

This article was featured in The Market magazine. To view it in full, click here.

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