Career Transition and Transferable Skills

Career ChangeWhen people think or talk about career transition they usually do so from a belief that you have to hold the qualifications and skills in the new field before you start. In many cases this is true, and rightfully so – I’m sure you would agree with me in preferring to deal with a qualified and certified accountant, doctor, surgeon or plumber or house builder.

What most people underestimate is the degree of skills that they have already that can (and do) effectively transfer into a new context and which will make the career transition much easier.

Culturally we often identify ourselves with our jobs – think of what people say when you meet someone at a party or at a BBQ (that’s an Australian social event where we cook food on an outdoor grill and usually stand around chatting while the food becomes charred!). The usual introduction is Hi, I’m Jane and I’m a Sales Manager. We introduce ourselves by name and job title. That may be because we are proud of what we do, and it can also be because that is the easiest way to fit into the other person’s social awareness.

At a recent family reunion BBQ I introduced myself not with my job title but my relationship to the family member who had organised the day. That was my way of ensuring that the people I was meeting could quickly connect me into their framework of who was there on the day and why.

And it is this desire to be connected and possibly understood that can also stand in the way when you are wanting to make a career change. For many people the desire to make a change occurs mid stream in their career – when you have a range of financial commitments and a lifestyle that suits your current salary level. The risk that many people fear is that changing career means losing money.

Let me assure you that this not automatically the case.

During your career so far you have built up a range of experiences, skills and capabilities.

Please also remember that we bring a broad array to any role:

  • our skills and the things that we can do
  • experiences and the lessons learned from them
  • personal attributes and our style of work, and our style of handling certain situations (those are often the experiences that we remember the clearest)
  • capabilities or the potential that we have that has not yet been fully tested in our career journey

Your first task when considering a career change is to do a list of those and then assess how they will translate into a new context.

Let’s take the example of a Receptionist who wants to change career and become an Auditor.

The skills of a receptionist are wide and varied and many of them would also be valuable as an auditor. Now I’m not saying it is a perfect transition, but lets look at how small that gap actually is.

Auditors need to be able to maintain confidentiality – a receptionist is often privy to information that others in the organisation may not know. Confidentiality – confirmed.

Receptionists need to be able to be a good representative of the company – the first point of contact. Auditors are often onsite with clients and are the local/known/seen face of the company. Brand and reputation – confirmed

Both auditors and receptionists need to be able to use a range of technology and understand systems and how they interact.

Both roles need people who can listen to a query or comment, interpret what is needed, confirm that interpretation and then take appropriate action.

The analysis and reporting skills may be at a higher level for an auditor, but if you have a solid foundation you can learn and be taught to increase that skill level.

Can you see how the gap may not be as wide as you first thought? Might this help you to make a career transition of your own?

If you were to ask me for the key process for someone wanting to make a transition I would say it is this:

  1. List out all of your capabilities and skills. Think about at work and outside of work activities and what skills you have been given (anyone who has served as a committee member of a local sporting club has to have some degree of conflict resolution skill!)
  2. Have a trusted mentor or coach review that list with you and tease out aspects that you might have downplayed or overlooked (It is amazing how much benefit you can get from having an impartial conversation and review of what skills and attributes that you have)
  3. Capture the list of skills, attributes and qualifications that your target industry role has
  4. Complete an analysis of where there may be gaps and where there are relativities
  5. Develop a plan to approach making the transition including what mentoring, coaching, skill development, learning or work that you need to do to close that gap
  6. Explore your network to find someone who is in your target field or knows someone who is in your target field. This person can give you some feedback on how accurate your lists and plans are, and may also be able to encourage or support you in making the transition

Remember that when you are making a transition that you may well be leaving behind the job title and business card, that you will be taking with you your experiences, skills, willingness and capacity to learn.

I’d love to hear your feedback on this including if you have applied the tips and steps I suggest.

If you like this post, please feel free to share it with others who may benefit and remember that it is perfectly OK to have a coach – all elite athletes do and high performing employees and executives are no different.

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