Guest blog by Suzannah Richard
Picture this: you’re scrolling through endless job posts and find one that looks interesting. Actually, it’s exactly what you’re looking for. As you read through the bullet points, your excitement grows because you tick most of the boxes. You’re confident and ready to apply. Then you see the dreaded ‘3 years of experience’ requirement and scroll on past. As the search continues, you grow frustrated. Every job post states that they want a candidate with years of experience. You know you have the transferable skills to do the job but you’re either starting your career or transitioning to something new. What can you do?
Transferable skills to the rescue
Here’s the good news, there are ways to bridge the experience gap! One of them is by showcasing your transferable skills. This tactical approach shows potential employers that you have the relevant skills to be successful even if you aren’t an exact match to the job profile. We’ll discuss these skills further in the next section.
Even better news is that the business world is constantly evolving and the talent shortage is reaching record highs and is likely to increase. A recent report by Monster reveals that a majority of employers are willing to hire candidates who are not the perfect fit, but have highly valued transferable skills that are vital to success. Although many roles are still highly competitive, your ability to package your skills can be the make-or-break factor.
So, what are transferable skills and how can you use them to attract the right kind of attention?
Defining and identifying your transferable skills
Transferable skills are core competencies you can use in any professional setting. They are developed through work experience – this is not limited to paid positions, it can also include volunteering, internships, freelance work, tutoring and more.
Here is a list of some of the most in-demand transferable skills. Though not comprehensive, it should give you a better idea of the skills that apply to a variety of jobs and industries.
- Communication – the ability to speak and/or write effectively and confidently, ask the right questions, actively listen to others, give and receive feedback
- Teamwork – the skill to work well with others, actively contribute to discussions, build relationships and resolve conflicts
- Technological literacy – the aptitude to navigate different programs and software, troubleshoot, code, and learn to use new tools quickly
- Organization – the capacity to prioritize tasks and manage your time efficiently, consistently meet deadlines, and pay attention to detail
- Adaptability – the capability to find creative solutions, learn new things, handle stress well, and adjust positively to changes
- Leadership – the talent to motivate others and help them to achieve their goals, handle additional responsibilities, take risks, and delegate tasks
After reading the above list, you likely recognized some of your transferable skills and there are many more. Hopefully, you are also more aware of your value and wider skill set that can enable you to confidently apply for the role you want.
Stand out from the crowd by effectively showcasing what you have to offer
Now, with a broader understanding of your transferable skills, it’s time to leverage them to your advantage. Catherine Leduc, a leading career strategist advises that the most important question is not whether you have the exact experience but whether you have the potential to do the job. Reframing the question creates an opportunity to establish the added value of your unique background and skillset.
First, review the job description to identify the required skills and how they match up with yours. Then take the time to connect your skills/experience to what is required for the targeted role. But don’t just cut and paste some bullet points. Try to dig deeper and think about situations where you applied specific skills. For instance:
- What are some of your successes? How did you meet your goals?
- What challenges did you face? How did you solve them?
- What are some important milestones?
- Did you work in a team or autonomously?
By detailing how and when you utilized these skills, you provide strong evidence of how crucial they are to the job you want. For example, rather than listing ‘leadership’ as a key skill, tell the story of when you demonstrated that quality. “As part of an initiative to reach our goals of diversity and inclusion, I volunteered for the D&I committee. I conducted research and collaborated with the committee to plan and lead a workshop. This increased awareness across all departments, and we exceeded our targets”. Finally, weave your evidence into your application. Keep it brief in your CV and expound further in your cover letter.
We cleared up the misconception that lack of experience prevents you from applying for the job you want. Then we looked at how transferable skills can be key to your success and defined what they are. Now that you have identified some of your own and considered how to leverage them in your job search, you hopefully feel more confident.
Starting a new career or switching jobs takes courage. It’s challenging and requires perseverance, resilience and support from others. There isn’t a quick fix that can magically land you your dream job. However, it is absolutely possible. A career change into the right job for you is incredibly exciting and rewarding. By leveraging your transferable skills, you strategically position yourself in the job market and this can give you a competitive advantage over other job seekers.