Switching careers can seem like a daunting task, especially if you feel like you’re starting from scratch. Put these six skills to work, and your transition will be smoother.

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.

What other skills do you think all employers value?

Elli Bishop is the community manager for The Daily Buzz, the BusinessBee blog. You can follow BusinessBee on Twitter, Google+ or Facebook.


  1. Matthew Jennings

    Lovely advice. Thank you

  2. Elspeth Bishop

    No problem! The decisions you make in college and in your early twenties aren’t always the best. Luckily, I picked a major that applies to nearly everything I do on a daily basis- communication. My friends who majored in construction engineering and want out ASAP might not feel the same way!

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  4. Nick Talent

    Good article. Another tactic is to boost the value of your career by focusing on these 5 key career skills – there’s an infographic too here:


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  6. Julie Dawn Harris

    I really appreciate it Elli including your achievements from your recent experience, earlier jobs, etc. .could help to qualify for your next dream job but you also need to focus on things you did related to your target job. Skip everything else. Just make sure your resume makes it clear that you have the skills ethic to do that next job.

  7. Career Sidekick

    These tips are really helpful. I like the idea of demonstrating the ability to wear a lot of hats in an organization. It shows that you’re versatile and not a 1 trick pony.

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  9. Dana Leavy-Detrick

    In most cases, any kind of client or customer-facing skills are a plus. Even if that doesn’t end up being part of your job, your ability to communicate with and understand their unique business needs is a major plus, no matter what you’re doing in your role. Similarly, an ability to work with and communicate among different levels within the organization – if you’re someone who’s worked across the board with interns, clients, managers and executive level decision makers, that’s worth noting, as it shows a versatility and strength in your communication and interpersonal skills.

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  13. Katherine

    Looking at these 6 skills, they are definitely something that an employee
    would be looking for. Transferable skills are something that people don’t
    realise they have. Many people stick to one job, although their set of skills
    allow for much more possibilities. http://www.klconsultancy.co.uk/

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  17. John Thiel

    While these are important qualities, the descriptions are subjective. I can’t write on my resume that I “can be counted on” or that I “go the extra mile.”

    Do people actually write these things on their resumes? Do they work? Are recruiters really that dumb?

  18. Kristina Smith

    Well, what I have seen in many companies as well as most of resume2hire reviews that the important thing is the required skill and expertise and all the things come later but still I would say that these tips are really helpful for the people facing such problems,

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