Monday, March 23, 2009

Transferable Skills

In the staffing industry, we are frequently approached by individuals looking to change their career focus. The most important advice we can give them is to focus on their transferable skills. Here is an article from MSN Careers that will give you some perspective on how to go about that in your own job search.

How to Use Transferable Skills
By Joe Turner, the "Job Search Guy"

Given the massive layoffs and shrinking numbers of jobs in many industries, it is possible, if not likely, that you will be forced to leave your industry or specialty area. To assure that you're successful in winning a job, it is necessary to master survival skills. To this end, many job-search experts and career coaches talk about transferable skills, but what does this mean to you if you're the one receiving the pink slip?

Apply these three tips to successfully transfer your existing skills to win your next job:

You are not your job title
If you're facing a layoff or you're already there, you'll do well not to limit your identity. You are much more than a job title, and within this rapidly changing and fluid job market, it's dangerous to tie yourself to a title.

Begin by viewing your work experience as a set of skills and roles that you have mastered that can be useful from one occupation or industry to another. This is what is meant by the term "transferable skills." Doing so gives you versatility and adaptability and opens up new possibilities. Although this is a good exercise to help you view yourself as more than a job title, consider this just a starting point.

Sell results instead of skills
Especially in today's shrinking economy, skills are just a commodity. Employers today buy results and are less impressed when a candidate promotes a laundry list of skills. Instead, define the many ways that those transferable skills from your past and present job performances have been assets to your employers.

Another way of looking at this is to ask yourself, "How am I an asset to a company's balance sheet?" Focus on how your work either helps the company make money or save money. Think beyond even your skill sets and job duties and list every possible example of how you have helped to make money, save money or save time for your employer.

By including several specific achievements when you have done this, you separate yourself from your competitors and are much more likely to gain the attention of your next employer.

Write down all of your achievements from current or past jobs. For example, if you're looking for a job as a project manager, make a list of your completed projects and ask, "So what?" after each one. What you're after is the achievement.

When I say "achievement," I don't mean the role you played or the duties you filled. Focus on the result, the benefit to the client or employer as a result of something that you did or contributed.

How did the client or employer benefit, how was that person's life made better? Ideally, we want to end up with an answer as close to a money figure as possible. If necessary, make an educated guess, as long as you're comfortable with the figure.

If you can't put it in terms of dollars, then how about using a percentage such as, "Achieved a 25 percent time savings by reorganizing the front filing system."

If not a percentage, then how about a number such as, "Reactivated 155 client accounts."

Now review your list. Try to come up with a list of five or more solid achievements. Ideally, pick those to which you can attach a measurable result.

If you can include a concise list of five to seven high-quality achievements that are return-on-investment-oriented and that resulted from something you actually did, you'll score a lot quicker than by just trying to sell a laundry list of transferable skills.

Develop your unique selling proposition
Education and transferable skills, while valuable, do not translate into benefits. Once you've taken some of those skills and tied a benefit to them in the above exercise, it's now time to define yourself in one concise statement or sentence.

Ask yourself what you can do for this employer that your competitors can't. You have a unique set of skills, experiences and talents. Now turn them into a unique selling proposition for the employer. A good USP says, "Here's what I can do for you" by highlighting one major benefit that you bring to this employer.

Often called a personal branding statement, your USP provides the first impression of who you are and what you offer a potential employer. This is also how you describe yourself in any networking meeting you attend. A good USP will get you remembered and put you on the "to-call list."

A unique selling proposition is deceptively simple, yet can be really tough to develop. It is a one-sentence description of the essence of you. This is your brand, your slogan, so take the time and thought to develop the right message for yourself. Although just one sentence, it should say three very important things:

1. Who you are

2. Your biggest strength

3. The biggest benefit that you bring to the employer

For the greatest impact, that benefit should be something quantifiable. And the very best measurement is dollars.

Here is an example of a USP:

"Hands-on operations manager with strong people and team-building skills who has helped produce revenues of $2.8 million with a 22 percent margin for my previous employer."

Notice that this simple sentence covers all three elements listed above and ends with a desirable benefit that most any employer would love to have.

As a recruiter, Turner has spent the past 15 years finding and placing top candidates in some of the best jobs of their careers. Author of "Job Search Secrets Unlocked" and "Paycheck 911," Turner has interviewed on radio talk shows and offers free insider job search secrets at: