research transferable skills for job hunt
Career Repositioning

When “transferable skills” are not enough to successfully make a career change

Transferable skills – I’m curious who originally came up with that catchy phrase. It sounds fantastic, right?

Project management… Communication… Managing direct reports… Client engagement!

“I have the skills. I just need someone to give me a chance to showcase these skills for their particular industry!”

Why shouldn’t transferable skills land you exactly the job you want in a different industry or sector?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

First, there are often many job applicants who do have skills *and experience* for positions you are seeking, so it’s unlikely the hiring managers will take a chance on someone with little to no experience.

Second, having skills doesn’t actually demonstrate to someone that you can *apply* them well and in the right ways that matter for their industry. That’s purely hypothetical.

If I have little to no experience, and transferable skills are not enough to get my foot in the door, then what else can I do?

You have to hustle – you have to do your homework! Increasing your industry knowledge is going to be the one thing you can do to make a big difference in how you are perceived as a career changer.

If you are serious about making a change, then do not go light here. Instead:

  • Read books, white papers, and other reliable sources about the industry you want to transition to. Fill in the blanks on any gaps in your knowledge.
  • Follow influencers on social media. What are the biggest stakeholders in the industry saying about trends and challenges in this industry?
  • Network like crazy. This is NOT advocacy networking, where you are trying to position yourself for a job opportunity. This is discovery networking – asking informed and thought-provoking questions of industry leaders to help you gain a deep understanding of the industry and reconcile disparate themes in your own research.

Keep this diagram handy:

career coach perspective on transferable skills

Pro Tip! The intersection of transferable skills and industry knowledge is how you communicate that you are likely to apply your skills appropriately, even when you don’t have the experience to show it.


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