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Changing Your Career: How to Identify What You Have to Offer a New Employer.

Taking a hard look at your experience to understand how it fits into other career areas is essential if you are contemplating career change.

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If you are thinking of making the leap from one career to another, you have to get clear about what you have to offer and how it applies to other areas of work. This can look like a big, daunting task but it actually doesn't have to be.

We've all heard the term "transferable skill" and can likely list off a few we possess quite easily. What I find; however, is that most of us stick to an unnecessarily narrow view of the career options that are open to us. We do this for a variety of reasons. The reason I am going to focus on here is this:

We underestimate what we have to offer.

Let me talk more about what I mean.

It can be easy to overlook what it actually takes to be good at our job after we've been in it for a while. We probably downplay much of what we do day-to-day without stopping to recognize how long it took to get good at it. I also find many of us are just too darn modest and humble--constantly under-playing ourselves, staying small, and talking ourselves out of our dreams before we even come close to realizing them.

If you think you might be falling into the modesty trap, here are some tips that might help:

  • Grab a coffee and spend 10 minutes jotting down what you think your skills and strengths are.

  • Next, ask a couple of people, who you’ve worked with to share what they believe your strengths are — you might be pleasantly surprised.

  • Take some time to review previous job descriptions of positions you have held or currently hold. Highlight the skills and qualifications noted and add these to your list

  • Head on over to and run a search for your most recent job title. Scan what comes up to locate 3-5 postings that appear to be inline with your current or most recent position. Print out a few and highlight the skills and qualifications they are seeking that you possess. Add these to your list. Do this for your last 3-5 jobs.

*Bonus points for taking note of salary ranges of these advertised postings, if they are available--this could be handy intel for future reference.

Become a Career Chameleon

I'm actually not a fan of the term "transferable skill". I think the term conjures up images of being able to take such skills, just as they are, and apply them to any old job. You can't just take your big ol' box of transferable skills, plunk them on the desk of your next interviewer and BOOM you have your dream job with no effort required. That's just not how it works.

Transferable skills need to be "finessed" in such a way that they make sense to other people, in other fields, company cultures and positions. When we are looking to shift our career, it's important that we do some work to begin to shift our mindset as well. What I mean by that is that we need to begin to prepare ourselves for a shift in identity, as well as, a shift in our actual job. We need to leave behind our specific job, career related language and jargon to make room for the new stuff. We need to become a chameleon of sorts and adapt to our new environment, just like a chameleon adapts to theirs by changing colour.

Here's what I mean.

Your current chameleon colour represents the skills that you acquire, build and hone through life. Whether you’ve noticed or not, like a chameleon, you’ll have adapted your colour for the work environment you’re in — making it work to your advantage so that you speak the language of your colleagues and reach the next rung on your career ladder.

Now imagine that you’re looking for your next challenge in a different career or workplace. To connect with your new colleagues and show what you bring to the table, chances are you’ll need to adapt your colour for your new work world.

How else will they know that, in your case, ‘community development specialist’ translates to ‘I’m awesome at creating events that people love to come to’?

They won't.

Here's how to get around that:

Pull out the skills and strengths list you started earlier and do this:

Remove all jargon

  • Do this by rewriting your list in words that your cousin’s inquisitive 6 year old would understand

  • Think ‘stakeholder management’ → ‘I am good at guiding people to do the things they should do’ / ‘I am good at making people like me’

Explore the ‘work world’ you’re curious about

Ultimately it doesn’t matter if you don’t 100% know whether you want to move into that career - experimenting is a great way to find out. Some of the most useful ways of doing this are:

  • Talk to someone in the role you’re curious about (ask the nitty gritty questions about what they do day-to-day until you have a vivid picture of what makes a fabulous person in that role )

  • Go to some relevant events, which can be anything from industry networking events to evening workshops to a casual meetup

  • Print out a few job postings of titles that interest you and cross reference your list of skills with what the posting is asking for. What are the matches? Where are the gaps?

Last, but absolutely not least…

Apply the so what? to your de-jargoned list of skills

Your hook — How do my skills make me an interesting and valuable person for this career/industry/role?

Your twist — What do your skills (or perhaps your combination of skills) enable you to do that sets you apart from others?

Your eye on the future — How are your skills relevant to this career/industry/role now and in the future?

Keep Exploring!

The more you explore the different career areas that intrigue you, the more you will begin to narrow in and see how certain areas align with what you're good at and what you enjoy. An added benefit of performing these exercises is that when an intimidatingly experienced hiring manager asks you tough questions in an interview for a position you haven't held before, you will easily be able to pull relevant examples from your previous work experience. Having taken the time to simplify and de-jargon, you will be much more articulate sharing your skills and strengths that set you apart more generally.

Become a career chameleon.

It's a much better way of thinking and talking about skills. It puts the ball in your court, gives you control and allows you to see how your unique skill-set has brought you to where you are today. Whether you decide to continue to grow meaningfully in your current career or, indeed, feel empowered to follow a different career path that might not be immediately obvious.

Ready to make a move and want some support to make it easier and more successful? Learn about working with me.

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