So you picked a degree in a career field you thought you’d love, but a few years into the daily grind, you’re no longer feeling it. What can you do when all your education and experience is in one field, but you know in your gut it’s time to move on?
Don’t despair — you’re not the first person to find yourself in this pickle. Believe it or not, you can transfer plenty of skills from your field to your next dream job. (Click here to Tweet this thought.) And if you’re on the lookout for a drastic career change, quite a few unexpected jobs pay surprisingly well.
Here are six of the top transferable skills all employers want and how you can mine them from your experience, no matter how distant your ideal job seems from your current career:
1. You know how to keep lines of communication open
Whether your experience has been arguing criminal cases in front of a jury or fielding customer complaints at a call center, your communication skills will serve you well as a career changer.
Being able to clearly communicate your thoughts, ideas and suggestions is valued in every workplace. In addition, if you’re adept at reading people and tweaking your communication style to meet the needs of those you work with, you’ll become invaluable to whatever organization you want to join.
Think of what your colleagues, clients and supervisors would say about your communication skills, and translate that praise into your resume and interviewing plan of attack.
2. You can organize, manage and lead teams efficiently
Even if the only group you’ve had the chance to lead was your son’s little league team, your ability to lead a group, organize different players and manage unexpected situations — like rain or wardrobe malfunctions — will serve you well as you change careers.
Think back on your career for times when you were selected to lead a project, discussion or committee. Don’t rule out any time when you were able to take charge and facilitate a positive outcome.
Find ways to share examples from a universal perspective. Identify specific skills and outcomes rather than the tasks you performed. For example, you could say, “Led a team of 12 people to successfully meet and exceed goals for three quarters” rather than explaining the technical details of your work as an accountant, office manager or other specific position.
Your ability to broadly highlight your leadership and management abilities will put you at the top of the list in your new job search.
3. You naturally go the extra mile
Being willing to do more than you’re asked — as well as the ability to anticipate the needs of your boss, customers or colleagues — are key factors to success in any industry. Identify examples of when you went above and beyond.
It could have been taking on an extra project, putting in extra hours or extending your patience to help train the new recruit. Highlight those examples, and be as specific as possible without pigeonholing yourself in the field you’re leaving.
If you received any service awards or other acknowledgement for your efforts, be sure to include those details in an “Awards and Recognitions” section on your resume.
4. Your passion drives your performance
Chances are there’s something about the job you’re leaving that you feel passionately about — there’s a reason you chose it in the first place. Identify those core elements that drove you into this field and isolate their value to your new field.
If you chose journalism because you love telling stories, but you’re burned out on chasing ambulances and legislative upsets, maybe you can parlay that love into working at your local library, social media management or Web marketing. Find a company, hobby or interest you enjoy and translate your storytelling skills into telling that story instead of dissecting the traumas and tribulations of the world.
5. You’re a pro at wearing many hats
All the clichés about juggling and hats come into play when you’re switching fields. If your job gave you the chance to fulfill more than one role at your company — such as managing both the marketing and the HR departments — highlight that experience when applying for jobs.
These skills are crucial, especially if you’re drawn to working for a non-profit or becoming a teacher, two of the hottest fields for career jumpers. In smaller companies and classrooms, you need to be able to manage more than one task at a time without losing sight of your ultimate goal — or losing control of your charges.
6. You can be counted on
Believe it or not, your perfect attendance record and wasted vacation days can be a top selling point, no matter how big a jump your move from accountant to massage therapist seems. Just like clients need their taxes filed on time, clients also want a massage therapist to begin and end their $100 massage on time.
If you can be relied upon and don’t leave people waiting, you’re already on the road to success no matter what your career change is. But if you include “dependability” in the list of skills on your resume, make sure you have specific examples to back it up when you’re asked about it in an interview.