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How Transferable Skills Can Help You Change Careers

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Before I came to recruitment, I had been in hospitality for virtually my whole career. I have owned two restaurants, and have dabbled in property management, event planning and hotel management as well. After I sold my last restaurant, I was on the hunt for new opportunities but unsure where to take my career next. After all, there isn’t really a next career step from owning a restaurant! A friend advised me to seek help from a recruitment agency to find out what my options were. So, after a quick Google search for local agencies, I came across Beyond Recruitment, and made an appointment to meet with one of the consultants; Sandy Eaton.

Sandy listened as I explained my background and the trouble I was having figuring out my next step. She asked me to elaborate more on the duties I undertook as a restaurant Owner/Operator, like contract negotiation, management, accounting, month-end reconciliations, HR and hiring. This was the eureka moment, as Sandy explained how these are extremely transferable skills that could easily be easily adapted into other roles, before asking if I had ever considered recruitment.

Initially I was surprised and a little hesitant, convinced that I didn’t have any of the necessary qualifications to work in that industry and especially in a corporate environment. However, Sandy quickly helped me realise that my experience in the restaurant business had given me the essentials for recruitment: people skills, problem-solving skills, the ability to think on my feet, organisation, and sales skills.

Long story short, I ended up working at Beyond, and my own experience has also helped shape the way that I help my candidates. I am a firm believer that your experience does not define you, and that those sometimes-hidden transferable skills can open you up to new job opportunities you might never have considered before.

Uncovering Your Hidden Potential

When I interview candidates, the first thing I always do is find out what they’ve done and what transferable skills have come from that. I’ll ask them to think more about their strengths and what they love doing at work. Often once I get a candidate talking, I am able to find out a lot more about their experience beyond just the standard duties. After all, it’s not the activities and tasks that you carry out, but what’s behind them – the motivation and the bigger picture of what you’re doing – that makes for happiness at work. For example, I love restaurants because I love looking after people. This motivation is immediately transferable to recruitment, which is all about looking after people by helping them get into a new job. As a result of my background, I often take a completely different approach than my colleagues.

Where some candidates are willing to just “give it a go,” others require a bit more encouragement in order to step into the unknown. I’ve found that one of the best ways to help a candidate improve their confidence in their abilities is to get them to look at their CV and rewrite it. Perhaps a candidate wants to move in a customer service role but only has experience in a call centre. The CV exercise helps them to pull out transferable skills to bridge the gap, such as how they related to customers or dealt with problems. Then when it comes time for the candidate to rewrite their CV, they often have more confidence because they’ve noticed something new about themselves. Additionally, it can also be valuable for them to have a conversation with their peers, as a fresh perspective can help to identify strengths they may not have thought about previously.

One success story from my time as a recruiter that demonstrates the power of transferable skills was a candidate I worked with who had been doing data entry at a government agency. When I sat with her for coffee, I discovered that despite the monotonous nature of her current job, she was highly dynamic and innovative. She was a forward thinker but at the same time incredibly down to earth, with a flair for planning and putting together information in an effective way.

With these qualities in mind, I suggested that she look into something that would challenge her and utilise her project-oriented mind. I found a PA Administrator role for a company that was very innovation-focussed. With the environment and his company, I knew she would be a good team fit. I arranged for them to meet in person to talk about her skills, and the client was blown away by her. She is still there now, has written a number of key manuals for their organisation, and has become an extremely valuable member of the team.

This all came from just taking time to sit down with her and find out about what she believes in, and now she’s working in one of the most innovative companies in the country!

All in All

My advice to candidates looking for a change is this: Don’t be so hard on yourself. You should never compare yourself to others that seem to have the right qualifications, because having a degree doesn’t mean they’ve got life skills or transferable experience to back it up. Don’t pigeon hole yourself into what you think you’re able to do, but have the courage to step outside the box and discover where your career could take you next. If you’d like some advice or support with your job search, don’t hesitate to get in contact with the Beyond Recruitment team.