“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Are you considering a mid-life career change? If so, you’ll need to identify your transferable skills. Why? Because at some point, you are going to have to convince a hiring manager that you are not only qualified but the best candidate he or she will ever meet.
You may need to get additional training or even a new degree in the field you are considering for your career change. However, the chances are pretty good that you have many of the skills required; you just haven’t identified and messaged them well.
In fact, in his best-selling book, “What Color is Your Parachute 2016,” Richard Bolles says, “… very often it is possible to make a dramatic career-change without any retraining.”
What are “transferable skills?”
According to Princeton, “Transferable skills are the skills you acquire and transfer to future employment settings.” You will often see discussions about transferable skills, when in fact what is actually being discussed is only the identification of skills and whether they are hard or soft.
This distinction is important for those contemplating a career change. Why? Because, in the end, it is those skills that can be transferred to a future employer that matter the most. That said, identifying all of your skills regardless of transferability is the first step you must take.
Mr. Bolles makes the point that skills and traits should not be confused. So, for example, being highly motivated would be a trait, not a skill, whereas the ability to motivate others would be a skill.
Also, skills are not always “hard” like writing software, but rather, they can be “soft” like the ability to persuade.
Some concrete examples of Hard and Soft Skills
Still confused? Maybe this will help.
Here are some examples of “Hard Skills”
- Perform year-end accounting
- Administer anesthesiology
- Possess a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and have the experience to drive a semi-tractor trailer truck
- Perform any of the construction trades
Here are some examples of “Soft Skills”
The important thing to note here is that the application of a soft skill in the performance of a hard skill will win the day in an interview or on a resume. For example, a marketable transferable skill might be:
- The ability to instruct junior accounts in conducting year-end accounting
- The ability to negotiate large-scale construction contracts
- The ability to supervise a team of plumbers at a large job site
Get the idea?
Where to find your transferable skills?
Good places to look for your current skills are on your resume, in your current job description, and in job descriptions for the career you are considering. I recommend that you conduct a gap analysis between those that you possess and those found in job descriptions for your future career.
Another strategy for identifying transferable skills
If you are stuck, or just want to make sure you haven’t missed anything, here is another strategy for identifying your skill set.
Step 1: Keep a log of everything you do at home and at work that gives you pleasure. It could be planning an event, singing in the choir, or paying the bills. Do it in the notepad app on your phone so it is handy.
Step 2: At the end of each day, forward the note to your email account so you can copy and paste it into Excel.
Step 3: Score each of these activities by creating a column next to the activity. Use a scale of 1-5, with 5 being assigned to those activities that give you the greatest pleasure.
Step 4: At the end of the week, create a new column next to the right of that column, and using the same scale, ask yourself whether you consider these activities to be personal strengths?
Step 5: Compare each activity on both scales to identify which activities are 1) a skill, and 2) a strength.
In the end, the transferable skills that are truly important are those that will be required in your new career. Identify them and make sure they are highlighted in your cover letter and resume and be prepared to discuss them when interviewing. And don’t forget; you may be more “qualified” than you think.