Transferable Skills Are in High Demand in Any Industry

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January 28, 2011

While some industries like science, accounting and healthcare seem to be recession-proof, others, like communications, aren’t faring so well. For that reason, many people with years of work experience find themselves competing for entry level jobs in different industries. Although they may lack the education and experience – gained through doing internships – of the recent college graduates they’re competing against, what experienced candidates can bring to the table is their transferable skills. Sometimes referred to as soft skills, communication, leadership and an ability to work well with others are valuable skills that could make a less experienced candidate more desirable than his competitors.

Duncan Mathison, executive career consultant and author of Unlock the Hidden Job Market: 6 Steps to a Successful Job Search When Times are Tough, offers the following tips to job seekers who are trying to break into new career fields.
First, there are a number of reasons a manager might actually prefer an outsider. Here are a few:

  • The industry is changing so dramatically there is a need for new perspectives and answers. Hiring an industry insider is more of the same-old – same-old.
  • The critical skills to make someone really successful are people skills in management or customer service. These are the hardest skills to train and are the easiest to transfer.
  • Convenience. They like the person and see that they will fit in well with their team and do not want the hassle of advertising a position and wading through hundreds of resumes. These positions make up the hidden job market – jobs that are filled before an employer resorts to advertising an open position.

Try these five techniques to help you break into a new career:
1. Learn the language. Every profession and every industry have their own terms and acronyms. For example, what one industry calls a “client”, another will call a “customer”. Translate your skills and background using the words a manager in your target industry will understand.
2. Ask your network of contacts to introduce you to people who have broken into your target industry. Find out how they did it and ask them for suggestions about your approach.
3. Do a search on the internet for PowerPoint presentations to learn the burning issues in your target industry and profession. Professional conferences are places where the industry experts meet and share ideas about current challenges or opportunities. Often the presentations are posted on the conference website. Do a Google search with the industry or profession’s name, the term “current trends” and “ppt”. In addition being able to articulate current professional issues in an interview, you will also learn the names of experts in your target profession who might make good insider networking contacts.
4. Ask people who could hire you what makes someone great at the job beyond the “minimum qualifications” and “years of experience”. Do a gap analysis between the specific needed skills and knowledge that make an employee perform among the top 10% in your dream job, and compare it to your background. Focus on closing the gap with professional reading, targeted classes, and describing your skills and experience to fit the manager’s needs.
5. Focus on the hidden job market where the competition is less and there are a greater number of opportunities through high quality networking efforts and industry research.
Finding an entry level job is tough in any enconomy, but as the unemployment rate continues to creep closer to 10 percent, it’s becoming a near-impossible mission for many people. Some are opting to change career fields, making their searches even more difficult; however, if they have transferable skills like organization, negotiating and budget management, they will be much more competitive despite their lack of experience or education in their new fields.

Originally posted by Candice A

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