There was a time, not too long ago, when it was common to work the same job for your entire career – just think about your grandparents. But today, that’s not the case. According to a 2016 Gallup study, 21 percent of millennials — those born between 1980 and 1996 — had left their job within the 12 months to switch careers, more than three times that of other generations, per the Harvard Business Review. This is partially due to the fact that we’re the most disengaged generation in the United States — 71 percent report being either not engaged or actively disengaged at work, and according to a separate 2018 research study, while Boomers considered being a good provider as the most important aspect of their job, not surprisingly, millennials have very different priorities.
We value passion above everything else.
While job searching can be stressful, I love the fact that it’s no longer taboo to leave a job because you’re just not passionate about it. You shouldn’t have to spend your life doing something that you don’t enjoy – and in order to find the thing that you do enjoy, you may have to do a complete 180 and switch industries altogether.
The first time I realized I was working in the wrong industry, it didn’t take long for the self-doubt to start creeping in. I asked myself so many questions: how would I land a new job in an industry I had never worked in before? Did I waste all these years at my current job for nothing? Would I have to start all over again? But once I started looking around for jobs in new industries, I quickly realized that, while I didn’t have the exact experience many of them were looking for, I did have the basic set of skills necessary to do the jobs well. So I focused on building my resume around transferable skills – skills that can transfer from one industry to the next, because they’re necessary in order to exceed in any job.
Since learning this trick, I’ve been able to land jobs in a wide variety of industries, from event marketing to real estate technology to public relations and digital branding, all of which have inched me even closer to achieving the career of my dreams. Below, you’ll find the four transferable skills I’ve found to be the most eye-catching for all of them, as well as how to seamlessly weave them into your resume to prove your value in any industry.
Critical thinking, also known as problem solving, is the ability to identify an issue, weigh the pros and cons of multiple solutions, and make an educated decision on the best path forward. Organizations everywhere value critical thinking, no matter the industry — in fact, job postings requiring the skill have doubled since 2009, as Forbes reported — and usually, it’s the employees who take it upon themselves to solve problems who are also the ones that make the most impact. When preparing your resume to apply for a job in a new industry, pepper in a few bullets about how you solved problems in your previous roles. Did you identify a more efficient way to do something? Did you implement a new tool that saved money or increased productivity? Did you notice a hole in an existing process and propose a better way to move forward? Rather than simply listing “problem solving” as a skill, paint a picture of how you thought through a problem critically, why you landed on a particular solution and what the positive result of that decision turned out to be. This will show your interviewer that you’re always thinking about ways to do things better — a skill every company values.
Having strong communication skills is essential across every job and every industry. You can make this skill apparent from your very first interaction with a potential new employer simply by the way you write that first email, as well as when and how often you follow up. I know the feeling of firing off a well-polished application — and then never hearing anything in return (I even wrote an article about it, it happens that often). It can feel daunting having to follow up with a stranger, but I strongly believe that, if done in a polite and time-appropriate manner, this is actually an opportunity to show off your communication skills. Hiring managers are busy, and in my experience, they appreciate a candidate who has the confidence to offer a gentle reminder. This can give them a glimpse into how you would operate as an actual employee as well. If you did work there, you wouldn’t want them to think you were too timid to follow up with a coworker or client if they owed you a response, so don’t be too timid as an applicant, either.
If you end up landing an interview, make sure you’re truly listening to the questions you’re being asked — this may sound obvious, but sometimes we tend to walk into interviews with a script of what we want to say already rehearsed, then we spend the whole time the interviewer is talking, thinking about what we’re going to say next. It’s important to be prepared, but make sure you’re actually answering the questions they ask, not simply spitting out the answers you want them to hear. If a question catches you off-guard and you need a moment to think about the best way to answer it, let them know. Intentional communication during the interview process will show them that you can be trusted to handle yourself professionally with clients and key stakeholders and that you listen to understand, rather than just waiting for your turn to talk.
No matter the industry, it’s pretty much a guarantee that you’ll be working with other people in some capacity. For that reason, the ability to work as a part of a larger team is an essential skill. At its core, teamwork means that a group of individual people must all work together to achieve a common goal. Within that group of people, there will be employees of different backgrounds, skill sets, interests, and responsibilities — but if you’re a true team-player, you’ll be willing to take on essential tasks that may fall outside of your wheelhouse if those tasks will help achieve the common goal. When trying to switch industries — or land any job for that matter — we tend to show employers our professional highlight reel, but it’s equally as important to show that you’re a team-player by including some examples of where you took on a project for the good of the overall team, even if it wasn’t necessarily the most glamorous task. Within any industry, I’ve learned that there are four little words that will immediately set off red flags: “that’s not my job.” By showing an employer that you don’t consider yourself “above” particular tasks, you’ll be positioning yourself as someone who can provide value in any team setting.
Being organized can essentially be broken down into two parts: you know how to manage your time, and you know how to multitask. When putting together your resume, think through how you can best illustrate the multitude of different things you were in charge of at your previous roles. In addition to your regular responsibilities, were you on a culture committee? Did you volunteer your time for additional projects? Did your work straddle two different departments? If so, how did you stay organized? Are you a fan of time blocking, or do swear by time management tools like Trello, Evernote, or Asana? The beauty of this skill is there there is no right or wrong way to stay organized — what’s important is that you have a system and that it works for you. Every company would gladly welcome a little more order into their business. By showing that you can stay organized amidst the chaos, they’ll see you as a valuable resource no matter your background.
When it comes down to it, specific skills can always be taught — but transferable skills can generally only come from experience, and hiring managers know that. If you’re trying to jump from one industry to another, a learning curve will be inevitable, so be honest about what you do and don’t know. However, every company, no matter the industry, will be impressed with a candidate who can showcase these four qualities — and the smart ones will place just as much value on that as anything else.