Transferable Skills

Transferable Skills

Have you ever felt that you’d be lost without your current job?
Have you ever heard yourself say “this is all I’ve ever been good at?”

I hear those sentiments a lot, especially in today’s tough economic times. The great news, and the hope, that I have to share today; is that these limiting statements are not true. Every vocation, every trade, every job – has a set of core competencies and demands that must be mastered. Once mastered, especially if plied over decades, the tradesman (ie skilled worker) often defines themselves by the work. Their very identity becomes tied to the currency they provide through their work. I use the term ‘they’, however I really should use ‘we’, as we all can fall victim to this sort of thinking.

The silver lining in this mind trap is that most of us are good at more than we even know. Over the years, I’ve loved seeing the light bulbs go off as clients or former coworkers I’ve coached became aware of skills and talents they never knew they had.

A job title in and of itself is far too limiting to describe the type, variety, or even quality of work that the complex and layered person holding said title performs on a daily basis. A sales professional, for instance, might judge themselves (and likely be hired and promoted) based on their abilities to connect with potential leads, extol the features and benefits of their companies product or service to prospective customers, foster and maintain relationships, and link customer problems or needs to solutions that their firm can provide. These are all crucial skills and directly correlated to the value that the key account rep or sales leader provides to the organization in terms of new leads, new customers, and increasing current customer spending. But they do so much more!

In Alberta a lot of professionals refer to the 80s and 90s, and to some degree even the early 2000’s as the ‘wild west’, as in, “we used to wine and dine clients on much bigger expense accounts back in the wild west”. Often referred to as the ‘good old days’ as well, the selling environment of decades past was characterized by sales pro’s who were very knowledgeable and experienced, and often also very high on the extrovert spectrum. I’ve heard at more than one management conference that you can always tell where the sales reps are commiserating by volume well before you actually see them. These days you can’t judge a book by its’ cover, as sales professionals come in all shapes, sizes, and approaches.

This is where the notion of transferrable skills comes in, as to truly land a customer, you do a lot more than sell.
• You might uncover their true needs (through effective listening).
• You might narrow a list of programs or services for a potential client based on above (a form of problem solving)
• Sales executives or senior sales reps might also use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to uncover data trends within their business or within their potential prospects (ie business analysis and strategic planning)
• Business development teams may also look at underperforming business units or products and look at ways to increase sales or even improve the product or service itself (which is a combination of operations, leadership, financial analysis, and executive-level decision-making).
• As the ‘feet on the street’, sales professionals also provide customer feedback to the executive team (failure to do so can lead to major product flops if the boardroom isn’t connected to the voice of the customer)

Each of the above are relatively common examples pulled from everyday tasks a business development professional must execute, yet the skills they employ to do so might not show up anywhere on their resume or LinkedIn profile.

Whether looking to land your next job, add more value to your employer, shore up your resume, or even boost your confidence as it relates to the value your bring to the workplace every day, it might be beneficial to take a step back and look at your role, and the larger ecosystem within which you perform your job. Have you ‘pigeon-holed’ yourself by labelling your skills or your career prospects using tunnel vision?

Give yourself credit for all the skills you have, not just the ones that conveniently and obviously go along with your job title. Most people take a lot more with them into their next venture, even if it’s in a completely different industry [spoiler alert: watch out for our upcoming post on reinvention soon!]