My first job out of college was in sales. Today I'm a recruiting manager at a global tech company in Silicon Valley. I’m also a podcaster. The one thing that connects the dots of my career trajectory and every job move in between: transferable skills.
At the point that I decided sales wasn’t for me, I reflected on what I enjoyed (helping people), what I wanted to do next (HR), and what would be the stepping stone role to help me get there. It turned out that recruiting at a staffing agency was a good middle ground. Recruiting meant I’d sell companies to candidates and candidates to companies. I’d help job seekers take the next step in their careers while ensuring hiring managers had access to great people.
But before I landed a job as a recruiter at Google, I teased out the skills I needed to highlight in my resume and interviews—skills like the ability to build relationships, persuade others, and provide a high level of customer service. All skills that continue to prove key to this day, even as a podcaster. Here are a few ways you can identify and leverage transferable skills to help you secure your next opportunity.
One of the biggest challenges I had for years was recalling everything I accomplished when it came time for performance review season. I’d sit there wracking my brain in hopes of recovering all I’d done over the past 6 to 12 months so I could write a stellar self-evaluation. Then one day I decided to start a project and task log that I’d update throughout the year. Recalling the details of projects became much easier.
This log also helped me identify skills and themes that’d be transferable if and when I decided to make a move. It was easier to update my resume and speak to these skills during interviews because everything was already written down. Instead of searching for examples, I was picking from a list I’d already created.
I also encourage you to include projects, tools, and accomplishments from your extracurriculars, especially if you hold a role in a club, organization, or have a side project. Skills picked up outside the office can be just as valuable. For example, producing and releasing podcast episodes has required me to create workflows to get tasks done. Since I’ve documented them, a new team member can be dropped in and become productive right away. Creating and improving processes to drive efficiency is a key skill that’s transferable to a wide range of jobs. It also speaks to problem solving, as you’re usually identifying something that isn’t working well and then fixing it.
Podcasting has also provided me public speaking opportunities that have in turn made me a better presenter at work. I’ve learned the importance of storytelling, which is just as valuable when talking about data as it is when you’re trying to motivate a team to overcome a major hurdle.
LinkedIn is great for networking, but it’s also a great way to research what skills and experiences you need beyond what you find in job descriptions. For example, when searching for new positions, I’ve made it a habit to look up various versions of the job title and find people already in the role. Their career history and current responsibilities give me a blueprint for my resume and LinkedIn profile. I can create a list of the common themes across profiles and cross-reference my log to find relevant examples.
Even if you’re happy in your current position, you should consistently revisit what’s next in your career and if you have the skills to get there. After doing role research, you’ll sometimes realize you don’t have everything in the job description or all the skills you saw in other profiles. That’s okay. When you’re moving into something new -- even if it’s within your field -- there will be gaps. Your goal is to minimize these gaps by picking up news skills that can be transferred to your next job.
Maybe you realize the next target role requires in-depth quantitative analysis skills, which you don’t get to flex in your current position. You could survey what’s happening around the company and ask to be involved in a project that gives you more exposure to Excel or the opportunity to track and report on key metrics. Maybe you do the weekly or monthly team reporting in collaboration with your manager.
Perhaps there’s someone whose spreadsheet abilities make you wonder what you’ve been doing all your life? Compliment them on the great work they’ve done and ask if they can show you some of the basics. Nearly a year ago, I asked a respected program manager to show me how she keeps various projects and deadlines organized. With her help, I ended up developing a project tracker that’s helped me manage large cross-functional initiatives that involve many moving parts and people. This speaks to taking the initiative to develop myself and the ability to manage complex projects and deliver results—two things that are expected in nearly every professional position.
These are just a few ways to help you think about transferable skills and navigate your career development. You’ll be surprised by how relatable your skills are to many different fields. The first step is to write things down. Once you do that, it becomes a game of plug and play. Happy hunting!