How to identify your transferable skills for a career change

If you’re dreaming about a career change, there’s a major false barrier to watch out for and it’s this:

Making a change will waste years of experience and know-how, and render your existing skills redundant.

But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Whatever your background and experience, you will have developed some valuable skills that have a part to play as you identify and work towards the career of your dreams.

What do these skills look like?

What I’m talking about here are the transferable skills that come naturally to you, and that you instinctively use, whether in your personal or professional life or both.

They are the skills that you really enjoy using.

You might not immediately recognise these skills because they are so innate that it’s easy to discount them.

For example, perhaps you are:

  • An amazing listener
  • A brilliant storyteller
  • A natural with children
  • A ninja coder
  • A guru at people development
  • Skilful at resolving conflict
  • A talented writer
  • An ideas machine
  • An incredible organiser
  • An expert with animals
  • An awesome cook

Why identify your transferable skills?

Taking the time to identify your transferable skills has two distinct advantages.

Firstly, it can help provide guidance on the right career path to pursue, providing parameters for careers that utilise the skills you are best at and enjoy the most.

Secondly, you can plan how to maximise and deploy your greatest skills as you take steps towards your ideal career goal. 

How to identify your own transferable skills

Step 1:

Make a list of all the jobs you’ve had and personal roles you’ve played over the years.

In addition to any paid work, consider any other roles that feel important to you like being a blogger, volunteer, friend, parent, pet owner, club or association member, and so on.

Step 2:

Consider each role one at a time and write down the hard and soft skills that you use in performing them. You can use this list as a prompt.

It might also help to ask yourself the following questions for each role:

  • What do your work colleagues, family or friends who know/knew you in this role tell you you are good at? If you don’t know, ask them!
  • What do people come to you for help with? What do they treat you like the oracle on?
  • What do you find really easy that others don’t?
  • What activities do you naturally gravitate towards, even if they aren’t in your job or role description?
  • What do you know about that others don’t? What’s your knowledge base?

Step 3:

When you have your list of skills, take a step back and consider which ones you enjoy the most and get the most satisfaction from.

These will be the ones that feel the best, not the ones that you think should be the most important. Go with your instinct and highlight the ones that stand out for you.

Step 4:

Finally, review your highlighted skills list and notice if there are any recurring themes. Do people always come to you for effective problem solving? Do you write great copy for your workplace and your personal blog? Are you always volunteering to organise events – whether friends’ parties, the school fete or work network gatherings?

If you notice any common factors, make a note of the themes. But don’t worry if there aren’t any.

How to use your list

Once you have your list of transferable skills, and any overall themes, you can start to consider which roles require those skills and would be a good fit.

It’s also worth adapting your CV to ensure your skills are brought to the fore and clearly demonstrated through your experience and any proof points you include.

So before you discount a career change as a mismatch or a waste of your current skills, take some time to consider which natural abilities are transferable and how you might use your skills to determine and work towards the career of your dreams.

You might just be surprised by what it tells you.

Originally written for, and published by

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