I recently received a note from a friend and reader of this blog about lifelong learning. They challenged me to write about “taking the skills we’ve honed to a razor’s edge during our regular career and applying them to something completely new.” I think it’s a very valid point. As we start considering an encore career, we need to be able to identify and sell the transferable job skills we’ve acquired throughout our professional lives. So, here are ten steps to show you how to do it:
- Define what your skills are. I realize this sounds very basic, but you won’t be able to figure out your transferable job skills if you can’t tell the difference between a skill, knowledge or abilities. Here’s something I wrote a while ago on HR Bartender that defines each.
- Analyze your current and previous jobs. What are the common skills across each? This can help you notice those skills that might be transferable to any job. Also ask yourself, are these skills still considered to be relevant. It’s possible they are but have a technology component to them now.
- Review your past performance. What skills have your managers and co-workers said you do really well? And what are those areas you need to improve? The answers to these questions can offer some perspective on those skills that others positively associate with you.
- Have an honest moment with yourself. Okay, we’ve talked about the skills you have and the ones you do well. Now it’s time to ask yourself, “What do I like to do?” Your encore career isn’t about doing something you don’t like. Focus on those transferable skills you enjoy.
- Understand what skills are required in your encore career. Start by checking out job search sites like Indeed or professional networks such as LinkedIn. Keep track of what job postings are asking for. You can also offer to buy a cup of coffee for someone currently doing your dream encore career and pick their brain.
- Match your top skills with the skills required in the job. Those common skills are the transferable ones. At this point, don’t worry about the number of skill-matches. Take time to study this list before moving on to the next step.
- Then consider grouping your transferable job skills into easy to remember terms. Maybe no more than five. That way, during an interview, you can count off your identifiable skills on one hand – it will be easy to remember. For example, the five groups could be leadership, communication, problem solving, creativity and teamwork. If listening is one of your transferable skills, it can be grouped with communication. Or conflict management skills can be grouped with problem solving.
- For each grouping, think of a story that demonstrates you have the skill. For instance, when I worked at the airline, I was on a project team tasked with figuring out what happened to luggage that went missing at the airport. It’s a story that shows people I can work on a team, with individuals from all over the organization.
- Practice telling the story. I’m not saying memorize. You don’t need to practice for “show.” Practice the story to remember the details, which in this case are your results (i.e. your successes.) You also want to practice so you can tell the story succinctly. This can’t be a 30-minute story. It should be a couple minute story and immediately capture someone’s attention.
- Be ready to tell your story. During interviews or meetings, if you don’t get asked a question that allows you to tell the stories, then wait for the often used wrap up question “Is there anything else you’d like to share?” and tell one of your stories.
This not only works during external interviews when you might be changing companies but for internal interviews, when you might be seeking a promotion or transfer. It also applies when you’re being considered for a freelancing or consulting engagement.
The bottom-line is taking the time to understand your transferable job skills helps you in the role you currently have, throughout your professional development, and for positions you want in the future like an encore career.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Portland, OR