Do You Really Have Transferable Skills or Are You Just Unqualified?
A couple of decades ago, loyalty to employers was the in thing. Once you got employed, you remained with the same employer till you retired.
Back then, this made sense. Employers still gave pensions, there was a limited number of jobs, and the kind of jobs that were available didn’t really favor job hopping.
Today, the job environment has changed drastically. Job hopping has become the in thing. Today, staying with the same employer for more than ten years is an exception, rather than the norm. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American worker will have worked 11 different jobs before reaching the age of 48.
With so many expected job changes over the course of your working life, it is inevitable that you will find yourself considering applying for a job that is not exactly within your range.
This could happen with jobs that are within your chosen profession but that require more skills or experience than you currently have, or when you need to jump into a completely different career. So, question is, should you apply for these jobs or not?
Sure, you might feel that with your current skills and experience, you can do the job, but then you might be lacking many of the requirements posted in the job ad. Is it worth applying for the job in such a situation?
Will the prospective employer even give your application a second glance when you don’t meet 50% of their requirements?
According to a study by Robert Half, 84% of companies are willing to hire candidates who do not meet the job requirements and train them.
The study also reports that close to half (42%) of candidates applying for jobs do not meet the requirements of the said job.
In addition, the study reports that 62% of employees have been hired for a position they felt they were not qualified for. A good example is Laszlo Bock, who says that when he was hired to head Google’s people operations in 2006, he felt that he wasn’t qualified for the job.
Based on the findings of this study, if you believe that you can do the job, you should definitely go for it even if you feel that you do not meet the requirements posted on the job ad. However, this raises another question.
How do you convince potential employers that you can do the job when you do not meet the requirements of the job?
The answer to this lies in your transferable skills. If you can show prospective employers that you have transferable skills that are applicable to the job you are applying for, they are more likely to give you a chance.
Identifying your transferable skills and how they apply to the job you are applying for also allows you to determine whether you have what it takes to do the job or whether you are just unqualified.
WHAT EXACTLY ARE TRANSFERABLE SKILLS?
Transferable skills are skills that you have picked up over the course of your personal and professional life that are adaptable to different situations. They are skills that can help you perform well in a given role, but are not exclusively tied to that particular role or position.
For example, if you have strong communication skills, these skills can help you perform better in your job, regardless of whether you work as an engineer, a designer, or a doctor.
Similarly, if you have excellent time management skills, these skills will be useful regardless of your job position. Contrast these to skills that can only be applied in one field.
For instance, if you are a web designer who is highly skilled in CSS, you can only apply this skill in web design. You cannot take your CSS skills and apply them in a different job, such as being a doctor.
Some examples of highly sought-after transferable skills include leadership skills, collaboration, communication, problem solving, interpersonal skills, work ethic, time management, project management skills, and so on.
It’s good to note that transferable skills are often confused with soft skills.
This is because, just like soft skills, most transferable skills are acquired through experience, rather than through specific training. Actually, most soft skills are transferable.
However, not all transferable skills are soft skills. Some transferable skills can be technical skills. For instance, data analysis is a technical skill, yet it can be applied in a wide range of fields.
HOW TO IDENTIFY YOUR TRANSFERABLE SKILLS
Before selling your transferable skills to prospective employers, you need to first identify the transferable skills you possess. According to Dawn Rosenberg McKay, a professional career planner, transferable skills fall into six broad categories.
Going through these categories will make it easier for you to identify your transferable skills. The six categories are:
- Basic skills: This category refers to skills that are necessary in all professional contexts. These include skills such as communication, the ability to carry out instructions, good work ethic, and so on.
- People skills: This category refers to skills that involve interaction and cooperation with other people. These include skills such as the ability to build and maintain good relationships with others, patience with others, conflict management, empathy, active listening, negotiation skills, and so on.
- Management skills: These are skills that relate to overseeing the work of other employees and providing leadership. They include leadership skills, ability to train others, ability to delegate, and so on. It’s good to note that you don’t need to have necessarily worked in a managerial position in order to gain management skills.
- Clerical skills: These are the basic office skills that are required in most professional contexts, such as the ability to use a computer, filing documents, sending and replying to emails, data entry, organizational skills, planning skills, and so on.
- Research and planning skills: These are skills that involve things like knowing how to prioritize tasks, strategizing, researching various issues affecting the organization, and so on.
- Computer and technical skills: These are slightly advanced computer skills that can be applied in a wide variety of professional contexts.
Going through the above list will allow you to identify any transferable skills you possess. Alternatively, you can use this Transferable Skills Worksheet from Portland State University to help you identify your transferable skills.
HOW TO SELL YOUR TRANSFERABLE SKILLS TO EMPLOYERS
The good thing is that if you possess transferable skills that are relevant to the job you are applying for, you stand a chance of getting the job even if you don’t meet all the job requirements.
According to a survey posted on the Wall Street Journal, over 90% of executives believe that transferable skills are as important as, and sometimes more important than technical skills, but are a lot harder to find in candidates.
However, just because you possess transferable skills, this does not mean that you will automatically get the job.
Since you do not meet the other job requirements, you need to know how to sell your transferable skills to employers if you want to get considered for the job. Below are some tips on how to best sell your transferable skills:
Do Your Research
You might possess a lot of transferable skills, but not all of them will be relevant to the position you are applying for.
Therefore, the first thing you need to do before trying to sell your transferable skills is to identify what skills the employer is looking for. To do this, you need to thoroughly research the job you are applying for.
When researching the job, start by carefully going through the job ad. From the tasks and responsibilities listed in the job ad, try to determine the kind of skills that are required for the job. If possible, go through several job descriptions for the role you are trying to get into and understand the skills that are necessary for the position.
If possible, set up informational interviews with people who are already working in a similar position to the one you are applying for. Try to understand what a typical day at work looks like for them, and determine what skills they apply on a day to day basis.
Once you have identified the skills that are required for the job, go back to the list of transferable skills that you possess and pick those that are relevant to the position you want. These are the skills you want to highlight in your job application.
Start by including these skills in your resume and making sure that they are prominently highlighted. Since you don’t meet most of the requirements of the job, your transferable skills are your greatest asset, and you want to make them as visible as possible.
However, don’t just write down these skills and leave them at that. In the experience section of your resume, give examples that show that you actually possess these skills and how you apply them to make a positive impact in your organization.
In your cover letter, once again highlight these transferable skills, and show how these skills will allow you to perform well in the job you are applying for. A good way to do this is to highlight situations where you have applied these skills in contexts that are similar to the position you want.
You should do the same when it comes to phone screens and actual job interviews. Focus on selling your transferable skills and how they make you a good fit for the job you are applying for. Don’t pay much attention to the fact that you lack some of the job requirements.
Show Your Flexibility and Willingness to Learn
Since you don’t meet all the job requirements, it is obvious that you won’t be able to able to handle every aspect of the job from day one.
Like I mentioned, however, most employers don’t have a problem with hiring an employee and training them. However, employers want someone who can easily be trained and start working within the shortest time possible.
You therefore need to make it clear to the employer that you are highly flexible and willing to learn.
In your cover letter, mention that you are a fast learner and show your enthusiasm for learning whatever you need to learn in order to excel in the position.
For instance, if the job you are applying for requires a certain certification, which you do not have yet, mention that you are willing to acquire that certification within a given time frame.
The fact that you have taken the time to identify the certifications or courses that are necessary for the job will show your interest in the position and in learning.
However, simply mentioning your ability to learn quickly is not enough. Show previous examples of situations where you were able to learn quickly. This will convince them that you are someone who can easily be trained.
One of the most effective ways of showing your willingness to learn is to start learning even before you get the job. For instance, if the position you are applying for requires you to have some certification that you do not have, enroll for the certification even before you start applying.
You can then mention in your cover letter and your resume that you are undertaking the certification.
This will show that you are actually committed to learning, and will put you ahead of someone who claims that they are willing to learn but has not taken any active steps to start learning.
Similarly, if the job needs some technical skills you are lacking, start taking some online tutorials to help you learn these skills, and make it clear in your cover letter that you are actively trying to gain these skills.
Consider Using a Two Column Cover Letter
A good way to sell your transferable skills is to consider using a two column cover letter, which is sometimes referred to as T-cover letter. With this cover letter format, you are going to create two columns.
The column on the left hand side will list the qualifications and skills that the employer is looking for. On the right hand column, you will list your transferable skills that are relevant to what the employer is looking for.
The two column cover letter shows prospective employers that you have a lot of what they are looking for and makes it easier for them to overlook the fact that you are missing some of the requirements of the position.
Don’t Be Afraid to Name Drop
Another effective way to increase your chances of getting the job when you don’t meet a lot of the job requirements is to name drop. If you have worked for or with big companies, mention this in your resume and your cover letter.
As you sell your transferable skills, give examples of how you used these skills to drive positive impact for these big companies.
Many of these big companies are known for qualities like impressive work ethic, industry knowledge, and so on.
Therefore, even if you do not meet all the job requirements, the fact that you have worked for notable companies will act as proof that you are a brilliant employee, and some of your prospective employers might be willing to hire and train you.
Don’t Apply If You Are Too Underqualified
At the beginning of this article, I said that you should apply for a job even if you do not meet all the requirements, provided you believe that you can actually do the job. In most cases, job descriptions are basically an employer’s wish list. They are based on a fictitious persona of the ideal employee.
Therefore, even employers themselves understand that it is highly unlikely that they will find a candidate who meets all the requirements in the job description. Therefore, your application will be considered even if you do not meet all the requirements in the job description.
That said, if you want to save yourself the effort of sending out dozens of resumes and not hearing back from a single employer, you should honestly evaluate your skills and abilities and determine whether you realistically stand a chance of getting the job. If you realize that you are grossly underqualified for the position you are applying for, it is best not to apply.
For instance, let’s assume that you have significant experience as a content creator, and you are now trying to get a job as the head of digital marketing at a different company.
Being a digital marketing head will require a different skills from the skill set required for being a content writer.
However, as a content writer, you are also involved in marketing, and therefore, by stretching yourself, and applying some of your transferable skills, you can actually excel in the position of a digital marketing head.
However, if you have been working as a receptionist or a low level clerical officer, you cannot realistically expect to apply for a C-suite executive position and get hired.
Therefore, before applying for a job, do an honest evaluation of your abilities in comparison to the job requirements, and only apply for the position only if you believe that you stand a chance, and that you have transferable skills that would allow you to excel in the position.
CAN TRANSFERABLE SKILLS BE A REPLACEMENT FOR HARD SKILLS?
Having seen how you can sell yourself to potential employers based on your transferable skills even if you don’t meet all the job requirements, does this mean that transferable skills can be a replacement for job requirements and hard skills?
The answer to this depends on the kind of job position you are applying for, as well as the transferable skills that you possess. If your transferable skills allow you to deliver and make an immediate impact on the job, they can actually be a replacement for hard skills.
For example, let’s assume you are a book editor who’s trying to change their career and get into corporate communications. Much of your hands-on experience as an editor involves things like directing the design of books, pitching book titles, editing manuscripts from writers, and so on. None of these is related to the hard skills of corporate communications.
However, as an editor, you might have developed other transferable skills that play a significant role in corporate communications, such as excellent writing skills, strong communication skills, project management skills, research and critical thinking, and so on.
In this case, you can use these transferable skills to effect a change from editing to corporate communications, even if you might not have many of the other requirements of a corporate communications job.
In some other jobs, however, transferable skills might improve your chances of getting the job, but they can never really replace the hard skills required for the job.
Just because you don’t have the necessary experience for a job you want doesn’t mean that you should not go for it. If you believe that you can do the job, you can greatly increase your chances of getting the job by highlighting your transferable skills, even if you do not meet many of the job requirements.
Before doing this, however, have an honest conversation with yourself. Assess your skills in comparison to what the job entails and determine if you realistically stand a chance, and if you can get the work done.
If the position is within stretching distance, go for it. However, if you are grossly underqualified, there is no need to apply, because you will get burnt out from sending numerous applications and never hearing back from any of the prospective employers.
Keep in mind that in most cases, it is not the most qualified candidates who get hired, but those who are able to show traits like confidence, enthusiasm, and an amazing personality.
Therefore, when you go for an interview, remain positive, enthusiastic, and confident. Focus on what makes you a great fit for the position, and don’t pay much attention to the requirements you are lacking.
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