How Do You Convince An Employer That Your Skills Are Transferable?
Updated: Aug 14, 2020
In our daily conversations during this Pandemic, this is One Question we are repeatedly being asked by job seekers who are using this time to assess their options and consider alternative career pathways.
Recruitment processes are precarious at the best of times but more so for those who are wanting to change sectors.
For the parts of our economy most heavily hit by the impacts of COVID, such as Retail and Hospitality, the competition in the job market has never been greater as applicants come up against years of industry-aligned experience in every recruitment process. Employers are spoilt for choice.
With enormous challenge comes enormous opportunity. If you are someone considering a change in sector, your opportunity is to find ways to make your transferable skill set irresistible to a prospective employer.
What better way to help you on this mission than hearing the perspective and practical advice of some valued members of Talent Effect’s network who have successfully made a sector switch.
FROM RETAIL TO CHILDCARE:
Alison Evans, Former COO
Junior Adventures Group
“I would love to suggest that my transition from Retail to Childcare was a much considered and carefully executed plan, giving plaudit to my own foresight and attainment of career goals but that would be a blatant lie! As can often be the way, the reality was much more opportunistic. That said, I had been very purposeful laterally within my retail career to seek opportunities that significantly broadened my functional direct line accountability. I made this choice to in turn broaden the opportunities that I could be considered for and support my ambition to attain a C suite role and it did exactly that.
I am not a great believer in luck but more opportunity and preparedness coming together at the same time. The opportunity to work within a sector with such a sense of purpose, supporting working parents to juggle their own career and childcare priorities, as a mum of three myself, felt incredibly worthwhile.
I went through a detailed process to prepare for the opportunity to change sectors because I knew that I would be competing against individuals with strong like-for-like experience. I found the following elements of my preparation were fundamental to the recruitment process:
I researched the business; its strategy, growth plans, recent achievements and how they articulated their culture and values. Using the role brief, I determined the critical requirements of the role and the challenges I was likely to face. My key piece of advice would be to find a way of stress testing this insight further through any upcoming interactions with the business. I speak later about the importance of the hiring process being two-way. It is so important you test your understanding throughout the process, particularly when moving sector.
On completion of the initial research, I spent time mapping my key achievements against the role requirements. I find it useful to conduct a SWOT (as best you can) with the information known to you, with particular importance on defining the opportunities as you see them for the business. This gives you an ability to talk to the value you believe you can add to the organisation, leveraging your expertise from another sector. You can then also shape up your thoughts on your initial priorities if you were to be successful and craft the first draft of a 100-day plan.
I identified so much commonality between Retail and Childcare. It’s all about running a profitable business, the ability to define clear plans for growth whilst taking care of your people and your customer. Sounds simple, said quickly!
I smile when I think about how I highlighted and demonstrated my transferrable skills set during the recruitment process. I recall actively trying to put them off during my first interview. Perhaps it was my own insecurity due to my lack of a tertiary or MBA qualification.
I remember going through the list of skills/qualifications required for the role and being upfront on my true strengths and where I could add most value but also being comfortable to discuss those skills that I had less experience in.
I am a firm believer in truly being yourself. It is so important that you and the hiring business can determine if this is an environment that your skills align to, ensuring you are setting yourself up for success. This is particularly relevant when you are moving to a new sector/industry.
The key at interview is to be able to articulate strong, tangible evidence aligned to the key components of the role requirements. I know that may sound obvious but being really prepared, to ensure you walk out of that room having given a full representation of who you are, your values and your strengths, is so critical, particularly in this very competitive environment.
Whilst CVs are important, I personally see them more as an initial door opener and I don’t recommend the continual tweak of a CV to purpose it to a specific role that you are applying for. My guidance would be to spend the time upfront ensuring your CV is a great reflection of your key deliverables and clearly spells out the achievements you are most proud of. I found the process of updating mine bizarrely cathartic.
For this role, specifically, the recruitment process was robust but fast and I had the opportunity to meet with multiple roles at differing levels within the organisation, which was invaluable as it gives you great insight into a business, its culture, values and challenges. It was a two-way process, with both sides investing in giving a great representation of themselves and this was really refreshing.
My best advice for candidates in the market who are wanting to change industry sectors is:
Go for it. If it is a sector or industry that you feel motivated by and aligned to, then seize the opportunity.
Do not underestimate your ability.
The ability to ask the right questions and the comfort to not know all the answers will serve you well. Be you and leverage your skills and expertise to make a quick impact.
When you have secured your role in a new sector, your agility will be further put to the test. My best advice at this point is:
Learn the business from the ground-up. The value of this is true to any sector. In my early weeks in a new role in Retail I always spend it out in the shops, getting to know my team, understanding the operations and most importantly getting close to your customer and I adopted the same approach for this role. I spent time in the schools meeting all of the key stakeholders, understanding my new team’s roles and responsibilities and asking the team on the ground what more needed to be done to improve operations. It provides invaluable insight and feedback and, in many ways, keeps you honest when you revisit it after your first few months.
Embrace the change but recognise that the tool kit of skills you have may not be applicable in the way you have applied them in your previous sector. This can be a steep learning curve, so be flexible and use the expertise around you to help you navigate those challenges.
Finally, this is a dynamic and ever-changing landscape, no truer than today, as we face the continued uncertainty of the economic and business impacts of COVID 19. This calls on our collective ability to continually evolve. As part of my current job search, I was recently asked in an interview, "What have you learnt from this sector change and what would you do differently if you were to return to Retail?" It was a timely reminder that the ongoing transferability of our skills will most likely become the new norm. Be purposeful in your reflections as to how best to apply your learnings to drive continuous improvement. I have always been a strong believer that no matter what level you are at within an organisation, you never stop learning.
There are so many 'firsts' happening right now, with no prior reference aid, and it should give us all confidence that with the right mindset and application, changing industry sectors is well within our capability”.
FROM HOSPITALITY TO AGED CARE:
Michael Ostroburski, Hotel Services Manager
“I have always wanted to be challenged professionally and each move in my career has been to a different type of Hospitality operation. This has ranged from Contract Catering, NFP, Pubs, Bakeries, Large Scale events and more. My most recent move to Royal Freemasons has allowed me to transition into a new industry sector (Aged Care) requiring many transferable skills from my previous sector of experience.
My drive to continuously learn was a huge motivating force behind my efforts to change sectors. Conversations with contacts from my network who have also made the change from Hospitality to Aged Care also provided me with confidence to seek opportunities, particularly when they talked to me about how rewarding they have found the move.
When I made the decision to focus on an industry change, I knew I had some work to do in pinpointing which of my existing skills most strongly transferred into the Aged Care sector. To do this:
I asked a lot of questions of those I knew in the industry - my contacts and friends were a big help.
I did a lot of research - read as much as I could on the Royal Commission into the industry, process and legislation. The new Aged Care Quality Standards enabled me to understand what is important and how my skills could transfer.
I selected an industry that is open to bringing in talented people that may not have worked in it before. There are lots of opportunities if you are hungry for the challenge.
I was also open to where I needed to develop the gaps in my knowledge; and how this could be done without slowing my induction to the business.
You can research and talk to your contacts as much as you like, but you then need to find a meaningful way to translate your ambition and capability into the recruitment process so you can get hired. I found that there were a few key actions that pushed me ahead in the queue of able applicants and allowed me to shine a light on what I could offer:
CV and cover letter – these were tailored to pinpoint what was being asked of me to be a success in the role. I spent time thinking and drafting appropriate responses that were relevant.
During the interviews, I was asked all kinds of questions about the industry. If I had not done my research and understood what was important to Aged Care, I would not have progressed.
Managing people, safety and performance is the same for all industries. I listened to the questions about people management, gave examples of my real life and tied them back to Aged Care.
Having been through this process myself and understanding, first-hand, the hoops you are expected to jump through as a candidate wanting to change sectors, my best pieces of advice overall to anyone starting out on this journey are:
Your contacts are your best asset. You are unlikely to get an interview by just sending out your CV and hoping Recruitment calls you. If you can find a connection to any job you want to apply to, use it. If they put their name and number in the advertisement, you must call them. Be proactive.
Do your research. If you want to change industry then read, listen and watch everything you can to improve your knowledge.
You may need to take a side-step or even go backwards to make the change.
NEVER WASTE A CRISIS. I know I didn’t!”
THE PERSPECTIVE OF A CAREER TRANSITION COACH
Kerina Alter, Altered Career
“Helping my clients to make an industry sector shift is a core focus for me at a time when many industries, such as Hospitality and Travel, are feeling the unprecedented effects of COVID. Due to excessive job losses, I am finding that many are opening themselves up to more varied opportunities and are looking to the industries that offer more growth and security in the near future than their current industries, such as FMCG.
My advice for anyone who is starting to think about making a substantial shift in their sector is to ensure they have gathered and fortified their confidence and courage. This process takes strong self-belief and bravery to relentlessly pursue your goal, despite the knockbacks that will inevitably accompany your journey.
One of the most effective ways to become clear and confident about your value is to undertake a self-review where you seek to understand your strengths and invite the input of others that you know to support and validate your findings.
When I reflect on some of my clients who have successfully switched sectors by highlighting and demonstrating their transferable skills set during the recruitment process, I think there are several important ingredients:
Matching the language of the job advert in their application.
Have someone introduce them - so not relying on the CV to do the talking.
Putting a human touch to their application, again, through networking and contacts, phone calls to the hiring manager and personal follow-up wherever possible.
Overall, my best advice for candidates in the market who are wanting to change industry sectors is:
Have someone from that industry sector review your job application.
Reskill where you identify significant gaps.
Become an active member of a relevant industry association.
Get a mentor.
Get professional assistance from a career coach who can help you through this process (I am biased).”
Kerina Alter can be contacted at: email@example.com for career transition services.
HOW DO YOU CONVINCE AN EMPLOYER THAT YOUR SKILLS ARE TRANSFERABLE?
Is this One Question we have answered?
These are only a couple of examples of people who have proven to a prospective employer that their skills will effectively transfer to a new sector, and they have been hired.
Transfering sectors has happened, is happening, and can happen for you.
Think of your approach in the same way that you would think about an orchestra. Every aspect of your effort needs to be finely-tuned so that when each part comes together, the sound is overwhelmingly impressive.
The commonalities of the above perspectives show us that there are practical steps you can take to increase your chances of being hired into a new sector:
Do your research into the new sector. Once you get off the starting blocks, stress-test your understanding of the sector throughout the recruitment process. You can take this as far as a SWOT analysis to establish how your value would help the organisation address their opportunities.
Invest in your CV to the point where it is the best possible representation of your skills and achievements.
Map your tangible achievements against the role requirements to firmly establish your value proposition.
Use your contacts and your network for introductions, application support and inside knowledge of the sector.
Know your gaps going in. Identify how you will overcome them so that they do not hinder your induction into the business. Be open and honest in discussing your plan to bridge your gaps during the recruitment process. Have comfort in the fact that you will not know all of the answers.
Believe in yourself. Go for it. The world is full of new and different perspectives now.
Do these things with the right support, mindset and self-investment and you will have every chance of making your transferable skills irresistible to a potential employer.
Please get in touch with us at Talent Effect if we can assist you with our recruitment services, market feedback and advice. We are here to help you.