Changing careers has always been an option for people who want to do something different. But today, in an economy that has impacted millions of people, some are finding they need to change careers, even if they would rather not.
Whether your change is based on want or need, you have to take a good, hard look at your transferable skills and highlight the ones that can help land that job in the new field.
That’s not as hard as it sounds. So, here’s a simple five-step process you can use to match the skills you have with the ones an employer wants.
(1) Take a sheet of paper (or open a new document on your computer) and list all the skills you have from your current and previous jobs.
(2) Pick out the hard skills, those that were specific to your current and former jobs. For instance, if you’ve been an accountant, proficiency in accounts receivable and accounts payable software would be a hard skill. If you’ve worked in construction, operating a crane would be a hard skill.
(3) Pick out the soft skills, mostly personal traits and abilities, that apply to just about any job and work environment. Examples:
- Communication. How well do you communicate verbally and in writing? Employers look for either or both in just about any job.
- Organizational skills. How well do you manage your time, workflow, and priorities?
- Project management. Can you manage and deliver projects on or ahead of deadline?
- Problem solving. Can you recognize when a process isn’t working and can be improved? If so, can you find an innovative way to fix it?
- Computer skills. Just about everyone needs to know the basics (how to use email and common applications such as a word processing or spreadsheet program). The more proficient you are, the less time they'll need to train you.
- Foreign language skills. Many companies, especially those that do business globally, value workers who can speak second languages. Some jobs even require such skills.
(4) Find postings for jobs that interest you, then determine which of the hard and soft skills they’re looking for line up with those on your list.
(5) Prepare a resume and cover letter that highlight the hard and soft skills you possess from your past work, and how well they will transfer and bring value to your desired job. Leave out hard skills that aren't relevant to the new field.
In the end, the worst that could happen is that you won’t be called for an interview. But smart employers recognize that an enthusiastic, likable candidate with transferable experience and a willingness to learn can be a better choice than someone with the right experience but the wrong personality.
Are you considering a career change? How do you determine if a job in a different field is worth applying for? Tell us in a comment.
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