Highlighting Skills Not Duties When Changing Careers

Tara Klein
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So, you don't like the career path you're now on, and you want to make a change. There are so many reasons that people transition from one career to another. Maybe you lost your job or maybe, like many people, you just can’t shake the feeling that the job you have is not the job you were meant for. Either way, changing jobs or starting over in a new industry can be a difficult and daunting journey to embark on.

As you start to build your resume and compare it to job descriptions, you become overwhelmed because the roles and responsibilities just aren't matching your experience. It's normal to feel stuck and tied to the things you've always done, but there are things you can do to open the door to a new career path.

1. Identify your transferable skills.

Transferable skills are those skills and experiences that are valued in many industries and roles. They can be difficult to find, because they can be masked by our titles, duties and responsibilities. When you dig a little deeper you find that there is a long list of skills you have and that list may surprise you.

For example, let’s just say that you are now a supervisor in a specialized niche laboratory. Some of your day to day activities include creating and sending laboratory reports and overseeing laboratory staff. This list contains the responsibilities and the tasks you complete, so challenge yourself to think about the skills it takes to complete these tasks. This position actually requires significant leadership and managerial skills to supervise the lab staff, and any supervisory position requires the ability to communicate. This role also requires customer service in providing and communicating with clients about their reports. So, just by looking at two of your duties, we have been able to identify three very important transferable skills that would be valued by many employers: communication, leadership, and customer service.

2. Highlight these skills on your resume.

Once you have dissected your current resume and created a list of all those glowing transferable skills, you need to make sure they are front and center in your resume. If you are looking to make a switch, remove some of the specifics from your resume and highlight those general skills that would be appealing to a new employer.

Here is an example of a specific niche responsibility on a resume versus a way to highlight a transferable skill.

Specific: Oversee laboratory staff

General & Transferable: Develop and monitor employee performance to increase efficiency

The first one is a duty or responsibility that is very specific to the role and industry. The second example pulls out the actual skill that lies beneath and if you can do it in one industry you can do it in another.

3. Draw the line between the new role and your current role.

Even once you have identified the skills that you think are most marketable to a new employer, it helps to draw the connections for them. When you are looking at the description and job requirements for your new dream job, you need to make sure that your resume shows that you have the skills necessary to do the job. As you look at the list of job requirements, match them to the transferable skills you have already identified and connect those dots to show how you’re a great fit.

Making a change is both scary and exciting, but by giving a little extra attention to the details and adapting your resume to your ideal job, you can make the change you’ve been waiting for!

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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Rich M. thanks for continuing to follow up on here. Glad to hear that your interview went well. Let us know when you hear back from the company. I agree that reading others comments really helps. Everyone has a unique experience and it's always great to hear about the different interview techniques that companies use. Having a hands-on interview is becoming more and more popular these days. I love it because sometimes show and tell is better than just telling the interviewer how well you can do.

  • Rich M.
    Rich M.

    I had my interview today(8/28) and I feel it went well. After a few minutes I felt relaxed, but slight nervous when they had me solder a few pieces. They said the parts weren't bad, but I think I could have done better. They will let me know by the end of the week and I could possibly be starting by next Wednesday. I think reading others comment about their skills and experiences of finding work help. Job changes are very scary, but if know what you're doing and want to learn something new, it's worth the shot.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Rich M thanks for your comment and good luck on your interview! Maybe you should check out some local colleges and see what it might take to get your degree as a teacher. It might be worth the time. All the best!

  • Rich M.
    Rich M.

    Thank you, Nancy. I'm glad we can chat like this. Not too many people understand what goes on if you're unemployed. At least, if you been in my situation, you know what have to do and can possibly help others with feedback on various comments. Yesterday, I set up to do an interview on 8/28/19. I'm still waiting to hear back from previous interviews from the other companies I've applied to. I might give collage a shot and learn teaching. Thanks again, Nancy

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Rich M thanks for your comments. Maybe it's true that a college degree is not the be all, end all. However, if the hiring company is looking for someone with a college degree and you apply without one, more than likely your resume will not see the light of day. It's the sad truth. When a company writes a job posting, they have to decide what is important to them. Is it that the applicant can pass online skills assessments or is it that the applicant has a college degree? That is the big question. It's true that the smartest person I ever knew, my Dad, never even made it through 9th grade but he had his own very successful business for years. But he didn't have to work for anyone - he worked for himself. I think the reason that a company wants you to have a degree is because - well, it takes a lot of time, attention to detail, sacrifice and so on in order to get that degree. That shows the company what type of person you are. It also means that you have at least dabbled in the area of interest for them - such as a certain programming language and that you could hit the ground running - or at least walking. Without the degree, the company would have to train you and that takes time and cost money. Why do that when they can hire a person who has knowledge of that particular software? That's just my humble opinion. And, if the assessments indicate that you would be good teaching school, maybe you should follow up on that and change your mind about furthering your education. All the best!!!

  • Rich M.
    Rich M.

    All I'm saying is, sharpen your skills and use common sense.

  • Rich M.
    Rich M.

    I have taken skills assessments online and have surprised myself with what I can do. A couple of assessments, pertaining to teaching school surprised me. I don't have a collage degree and I took them to find out if I could do it. I got a proficient on both of them! Which, to me says, you don't really need a degree to do something that's just common sense. No offense to those who went to collage, but that doesn't always mean you're smarter than the rest of us. It maybe nice to have, but you don't always need one. Some of the smartest people I know never went. I have a cousin, he's gone, who ran a company in Texas, never went to collage.

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