Why understanding your transferable skills is the key to unlocking career happiness

Looking for more career satisfaction? Find out why understanding your transferable skills is the key to unlocking professional happiness.

Deciding to switch careers can be a key moment in your life – whether it’s down to circumstance or personal choice.

It may be that your current career no longer fills you with purpose or perhaps you simply feel ready to try something new, with all the benefits this can bring to our wellbeing. Something that aligns fully to your interests, values, and goals.   

Changing career can be daunting, especially if the progression opportunities in your existing career are already mapped it for you. Though it needn’t be. It takes the right approach and mindset to successfully transition into a new career. Central to this is understanding your transferable skills.  

Can a change be good for your career? 

To answer this, let’s look at the careers of Vera Wang, Professor Brian Cox and Ronald Reagan. 

Renowned fashion designer Vera Wang aimed for the stars as an Olympic figure skater when she decided to pivot into haut-couture – she hung up her skates and used her network to bag herself an editorial role at Vogue. I think you know the rest. 

After starting his career as a musician in the late 80s, Brian Cox swapped his keyboard for his telescope in the late 90s, and has since launched his career as a physicist, becoming the well-known face of science in Britain today.  

Ronald Reagan switched the red carpet for the White House in the 60s after a stint as a professional actor. His skills in front of the camera served him well as he went on to serve as the 40th President of the United States for eight years. 

Why are transferable skills important? 

Transferable skills are the skills you’ve developed in your roles and industries to date that may be attractive to new roles and industries. These skills could include communication, leadership, teamwork, problem-solving and time management, to name a few.  

It is these transferable skills that you’d want to highlight in your job search to demonstrate that you have the right skills and experience necessary to succeed in a new role. 

A good example of this is Sean Briggs, an adviser at Connected Financial Management. After a career as a mental health specialist, he decided to pivot his career with the St. James’s Place Financial Adviser Academy

Sean describes himself as a people person; he knew that whichever role he transitioned into, it would have to be people focused. Drawing on his experience from his previous career, he now applies this to financial advice. “People are surprised when they hear where I transitioned from – but both roles enable me to support, understand and get to know people, as well as their families too.” 

How can I understand my transferable skills? 

Start by listing all the tasks and responsibilities you’ve had in your previous roles. Then, think about the skills you used to complete those tasks and responsibilities. For example, if you’ve been a customer service representative, you’ve likely developed strong communication and problem-solving skills, plus the ability to handle difficult situations. 

Another way to identify your transferable skills is by creating a list of achievements and successes in your past roles. Reflect on what you did well, what you enjoyed and where you excelled. These will give you a good indication of your skillset. 

Once you’ve identified your transferable skills, it’s time to highlight them in your CV and cover letter. Again, use language that demonstrates how your skills can be applied to the new role that you’re applying for. For example, explain how you’ve used your skills to achieve specific results in your past roles instead of simply listing these skills. 

In addition to highlighting your transferable skills in your job search materials, it’s also important to focus on them during interviews. Be prepared to discuss specific examples of how you’ve used your transferable skills in past roles and how you plan to use them in your new role. 

Stay positive and persistent  

It’s important to keep in mind that a career change is not an overnight process. It takes research, effort, and time to make it happen. The important thing is to stay positive and persistent and to keep your skills and achievements in mind as you explore new career options. But the reward of a career that truly aligns with your interests, values, and goals will be worth all of your efforts. 

Cox, Reagan and Wang used their transferable skills to great advantage, and you can too. If you’re considering a career change, get thinking about all of your transferable skills, achievements, and successes. Industry experience goes so far, but by focusing on your transferable skills, it may open many more doors and make you an attractive candidate for careers in different fields.  

How to unlock your career happiness in five steps

So how can you better understand your transferable skills, and unlocking your career happiness? Here’s the process summed up in five steps:

  1. List your tasks: Start by listing all the tasks and responsibilities you’ve had in previous roles.
  2. Find your skills: Next write down the skills you used to complete those tasks and responsibilities. 
  3. List your wins: Then create a list of achievements and successes in your past roles: What did you do well? What did you enjoy? Where did you excel? 
  4. Highlight in your CV: Now highlight these skills in your CV and cover letter. Use language that demonstrates how your skills can be applied.
  5. Get ready: Finally, be prepared to discuss your skills in interviews.

Photo by Soundtrap