The hardest part of making a career switch is figuring out how the skills you have set you up for the job you want. Even if know how your skills align, you still need to put that into words in your resume, cover letter and career profile. This step-by-step approach will help you do that.
Remember the good old Venn diagram? You’re going to make one. On a blank page draw two large overlapping circles.
What are my skills?
Before writing anything down, think about what you are responsible for on a daily basis, both in past jobs and your current job. Also, consider what you do that is outside of your job description. Brainstorm the skills you’ve used, both hard and soft skills, so things like “communication,” “HTML,” “contracts,” or “negotiation.” Write all of these down in one circle.
What have I achieved?
On the bottom of the page write down specific accomplishments. They do not have to be quantifiable. Did you save a colleague time by helping them complete a task? Have you helped put together a proposal that won the company new business? Think of small and big achievements. If you’ve been recognized informally or formally for good work, write it down.
Once you have your accomplishments recorded, look at each one and identify what skill you used to achieve that goal. Some examples might be: “problem solving,” “data analysis,” or “sales.” Write all of the skills you define from your accomplishments in the skills circle you already created.
What skills do I need for my target job?
Next, search a career site like ClearanceJobs.com to find job descriptions in which you’re interested. Read through “required” or “minimum qualifications” and “desired” or “preferred qualifications.” What skills do they seek? There are usually generic and job-specific skills. Look through three to five job descriptions and record the skills that you’ve found in the second circle. Note with an asterisk those that you’ve seen repeated in more than one description.
Which skills overlap?
Are there skills repeated in both of your circles? listed in the circles? Move those into the middle overlapping portion of the circles. This will help you see what skills (and achievements) should be highlighted in your resume, cover letter and career profile. If you still feel you are at a disadvantage, expand your perspective. Have you utilized some of the skills sought by these companies in community organizations, volunteer work, or school?
If you cannot draw any parallels between the skills you’ve developed on the job and the ones you need to have, ask your colleagues, family and friends. Perhaps there are qualities or activities in your personal or professional life that do apply. A third party is often better at helping us understand what exactly it is we do.
Once you do this exercise and speak with close friends or co-workers, if you still feel at a loss, look into taking classes or doing some self-study online. There are countless resources, both free and paid, that can help you gain new skills quickly and on your own time. After you’ve begun studying, incorporate this information into your online profiles and job application materials. Not only will this help you get a leg up in the required skills and knowledge department, it also shows employers that you’re self-motivated, boosting employers’ confidence in you as a candidate.