Writing Cover Letter Transferable Skills

by Maureen Crawford HentzThe most effective technique career changers can use in their resumes and cover letters is TRANSFERABLE SKILLS, TRANSFERABLE SKILLS, TRANSFERABLE SKILLS. I recently gave a workshop specifically on this topic for career changers at the National Environmental Careers Conference. I was shocked at the number of competent, successful individuals who kept referring to themselves as “totally unqualified for a job in the environment.” These were adults with four to 12 years of experience as managers, editors and engineers.

I recommend that career changers (and only career changers) have an objective on their resume. With my clients, I refer to these objectives as TRANSITIVE OBJECTIVES. Transitive objectives are those that help a potential employer understand which skills/experience the applicant thinks are transferable. Transitive objectives usually follow a format similar to these:

To use my —- years of experience as a ——-, —— and——— in an environmentally responsible research non-profit.

Seeking a —————– position that will effectively maximize my experience in ————————.For example, an accountant applying for a research position, could say:

“Seeking a biology research position that will effectively maximize my 10 years of experience as a manager with budget and supervisory responsibility.”

OR:”Seeking a biology research position that will effectively maximize my experience in program and personnel management.”The second strategy I recommend to career changers is to use a competency-based resume [Editor’s note: Also called a functional resume]. I recommend that career changers try to categorize prior jobs and volunteer positions as competencies so that the resume reviewer or potential employer can clearly see the transferable skills and experience.Similarly, I recommend that job seekers address the career-change issue directly in the cover letter. It’s not necessary to self-disclose your long struggle with a job you hate, but rather briefly describe:

  1. what compels you toward the new field and
  2. what skills you can offer that are transferable.

I’ve seen very effective resumes in which candidates say directly in the cover letter: “While at first glance I may not seem to fit your typical candidate profile, I confident that my skills in ——–, ——- and ——–, as well as my knowledge of ——— would indeed be an excellent match for this position.”
See also these articles:

Be sure to use all of our Job & Career Resources for Career Changers.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.Regular QuintZine contributor Maureen Crawford Hentz is manager of talent acquisition, development and compliance for OSRAM SYLVANIA Inc., a Siemens company. She is a nationally recognized expert on social networking and new media recruiting. With more than15 years of experience in the recruiting, consulting and employment areas, her interests include college student recruiting, disabilities in the workplace, business etiquette, and GLBT issues. Crawford Hentz has been quoted by The New York Times, NewsDay, The Boston Globe, and National Public Radio, among others. In addition to her work for QuintZine, she is a contributor to the Boston.com HR blog. She conducts workshops, keynotes and conference sessions nationally. Crawford Hentz holds a master of arts degree in college student personnel from Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH, and a bachelor of arts degree in international studies from The American University, Washington, DC. She lives outside Boston, MA.

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Transferable skills to add on your resume

Learn how to write a resume that pinpoints and highlights the skills you have to help land the job you want.

A significant challenge career changers face is preparing a winning resume. After all, it's arduous enough when you have ample related experience. Writing this crucial document becomes even more painstaking when you're looking to take a completely new career direction.

Your saving grace: Transferable skills.

What are transferable skills?

Career expert Richard Nelson Bolles pioneered the idea of transferable skills in his perennial bestseller What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers. According to Bolles, we are all born with skills we take from job to job. These transferable skills can be broken down into three categories: people (communicating, teaching, coaching and supervising), data (record keeping, researching, translating and compiling data) and things (operating computers/equipment, assembling and repairing).

If you take the time to identify your transferable skills, you can convince employers that you have the core skills necessary to excel in your new career choice.

Where to find transferable skills

  • Job ads:Search for your target job on Monster, and review the skills it requires. You may not possess all of them, but look for skills that are somehow related to those you developed via another career, hobby or educational pursuit.

    For example, a teacher making the transition to sales might find that presentation, organizational and interpersonal skills are desirable for salespeople. She could then highlight her experience giving daily group presentations, creating and launching educational programs, and building team morale. All of these are examples of transferable skills you may overlook, because they come easily to you.

  • Occupational Information Network (O*NET): This site provides a keyword search tool that lists job skills based on career field. Search the list for those of your skills you can transfer to your new industry, and check out this list of all-purpose skills. 
     
  • Industry networking: Speak with workers in your desired field, read trade publications, study employer Web sites, network at industry events and connect with industry associations to learn which skills are important. Once you have a good understanding of desirable skills, you'll know which ones to emphasize.

Identify your transferable skills

Career coach Christine Edick works closely with her career-change clients to identify transferable skills. In one exercise, she asks them to create a chart of old job skills, new job skills and transferable skills. "Most clients find that they have at least 50 percent of transferable skills needed for their new job," she says. The following chart can help you map your transferable skills:

Old Job Skills

Skills Required for New Job Transferable?

Related Accomplishments

Skill #1

Yes/No

Yes/No

Skill #2

Yes/No

Yes/No

Skill #3

Yes/No

Yes/No

Skill #4

Yes/No

Yes/No

 

Show your transferable skills

Demonstrate you're qualified for your career change by prominently displaying your transferable skills on your resume. "Showcasing transferable skills upfront helps the human reader see the keywords they are looking for, and then they can look to other parts of the resume for more details," Edick says.

Your transferable skills may be included as a key skills list within your qualifications summary. You can lead with a statement like, "Highlights of my related skills include:" followed by a bulleted list of your transferable skills. When creating your Monster resume, you can use the Skills section in the Monster Resume Builder to list skills.

Back up your transferable skills by including examples of how you successfully used the skills in another career field or other experience. Edick uses the CAR (challenge, actions, results) approach by asking her clients:

  • Challenge: What were some of the challenges you faced? 
     
  • Actions: What actions did you take to overcome the challenges? 
     
  • Results: What were the results of your work?

"That way, career changers build confidence that the basic skills they developed in one career transfer to a new career," Edick says. The CAR stories can be added to a key accomplishments section to demonstrate previous success using these transferable skills.


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