Updated: Oct 17, 2022
YES, you are!
No matter what your job is right now, you can take your career in a lot of different directions. There are many examples of people who have moved from jobs like yours into a new line of work. They found a way to transfer their skills and knowledge to another job, and so can you!
Even if you have a career that’s somewhat niche (e.g. accountant, architect, wind turbine engineer), or you’re in a career where people tend to stay put for a long time (e.g. teacher, physical therapist, computer programmer), alternatives exist.
This blog is for you if you’ve ever asked yourself one of these questions:
How can my skill set translate into other types of work?
Am I stuck in this field because my skills aren't relevant elsewhere?
What else could I be good at?
This blog is especially for you if your answers to the questions above sound like this:
My skills don’t translate well to other careers.
I’m stuck in this field because my skills and experiences aren't relevant to other work.
I don't know what else I'd be good at, probably nothing.
Examining your beliefs and assumptions
If you think you don't have any relevant skills or experiences to offer to a future job, STOP. RIGHT. THERE. It's simply not true. Responses like the ones bulleted above are not based on reality. They are based on your beliefs and assumptions.* It's ok, we all have them. Beliefs and assumptions help us make sense of things. But in this case, they aren't doing you any favors. They're convincing you that it's not even worth trying to find new work. They're holding you back from making a change that you want.
Your beliefs and assumptions do sneaky, stealth work to shape your behavior, so it's important to hold them up to the light to examine them more closely. To push back a little against their certainty.
Belief/Assumption #1: The skill set of a ________(teacher, software engineer, physical therapist, etc…) is too specific to transfer to other careers.
There’s not just one way to use the skills you have, no matter what your position is. Watch this 2 minute video about how my daughter reminded me of this by using her sled in ways I never would have imagined.
This belief might be based on the fact that you can't think of anyone in your field who has made a transition. If this is the case, ask other people if they know of anyone or start searching around on LinkedIn. They're out there.
Or, perhaps you haven't reflected enough on your skills. Sit down and make a list. Think through your days and what you do. But not just what you do, but how you do it. How do you accomplish your responsibilities? How does your brain have to work to complete your tasks? How do you go above and beyond in your work?
Now look at your list. There will definitely be some skills that are very specific to your career (e.g. a nurse giving a patient their meds), but I’m also certain you’ll see some skills that are “transferable” to another position (e.g. a nurse being compassionate and kind with a patient who doesn’t want their meds). Compassion for others has value in so many other types of work.
"Transferable skills" are skills you develop in one job that you can use in another job, even if the work isn’t directly related. We all have them.
Belief/Assumption #2: I need to use all of my skills in my next position.
If you are looking for a new type of work, then you are not going to want to use all your skills in your next job. This is your chance to think about which skills you'd rather not use in your work anymore. Just because you're good at something, doesn't mean you need to keep doing it! This is called a "burnout skill" - when you are highly competent in a skill that you hate using. Avoid them.
Belief/Assumption #3: I need to have all of the skills employers desire.
No one has all of the qualifications, truly. I’ve seen this play out time and again when I've participated in the hiring process in previous positions. We write the job description for our ideal candidate, but we never get our perfectly ideal candidate. Every job candidate has some of the skills and experiences we desire, but not others. There are tradeoffs, and it’s our job as employers to choose the best candidate we can from the pool. Then we train our hire with the skills they need but don’t yet have.
Belief/Assumption #4: My resume will never present me as anything but a __________(nurse, architect, teacher, etc…)
This is true if you use a resume that isn’t “targeted” to the type of work you want. You can’t use the same structure and content you’ve used in the past because it tells the story that got you your current job. You want to tell a new story, one that connects the dots between your past and present work and helps you get the new kind of work you want. This includes using different keywords that translate better to your desired job or field and reorganizing your resume content to highlight your most relevant work.
A "targeted" resume allows you to highlight skills and experiences that are most relevant to the position you want.
Belief/Assumption #5: There’s no way to figure out how my skills relate to another career.
It’s true that there is no database where you can plug in your skills and get a list of jobs perfectly matched for you. That would be amazing. The closest thing I know of is Onet Online, a website managed by the U.S. Department of Labor. It offers a few ways to cross-reference skills and occupations. I think it's pretty limited, but you should check it out and see how it works for you.
The best way to start discovering alternative uses for your skill set is DIY. Make a list of the skills you have and want to use. Cross reference this list with jobs or careers that interest you. This requires talking to people who do the work to find out what it entails and good old fashioned research through Google, LinkedIn, job boards.
Show your beliefs and assumptions who's boss!
Your beliefs and assumptions don't have to be the boss of you. You're too smart for that now. You've got their number, and you know their sneaky ways.
You've identified some beliefs and assumptions that are holding you back from finding work you're qualified to do and excited to pursue. Check.
We've debunked some of your unhelpful assumptions so you can move forward with your career planning. Check.
You've got a few strategies to help you identify, prioritize, and share your transferable skills. Check.
Now it's time to get to work! Jobs that are a good fit for your skill set don't typically fall into your lap when you decide you're ready. You have to be proactive.
What's one thing you can do today to start making connections between your skills, knowledge, and other careers?
*I'm using both the terms "beliefs" and "assumptions" because the difference seems to be how true you believe your idea to be. If you're certain it's true, it's a belief. If you think it's true but haven't proved it, it's an assumption. Both a belief and an assumption can end up being false, it just depends on how heartily you believe it!
I'd love to hear what you think about this topic. Are there any beliefs or assumptions that are particularly challenging for you? Share with me and others in the comments below or send me an email at email@example.com.