Think at London Business School
Friday 3 December 2021
Amine Arezki EMBA2022 helped invent a 3D printable mask that was produced cheaply across five continents at the height of the pandemic
By Mel Bradman
Although technical skills are important in changing jobs within a specific function or sector, transferable skills are non-technical competencies that enable us to progress and transition careers. There are many ways to look at transferable skills, but one way to group them broadly is as follows:
Interpersonal skills are those that enable you to engender trust and develop relationships. Teamwork and stakeholder management are important components of this category.
Communication skills include listening as well as talking; being mindful of body language and facial expressions. Presenting is important, but the thought that goes into a presentation is as critical as the performance itself.
Insight covers the leveraging of your domain knowledge: innovation, strategic thinking and problem-solving. What do you do with your knowledge – how do you use it to benefit your employer?
Judgement is how you think, reach conclusions and make decisions. Are you thoughtful and thorough? Fact-based or intuitive? Do you have commercial awareness?
Your leadership style defines how you lead. Many of us like to think of ourselves as visionary, democratic and empowering. We also occasionally need to be authoritative, decisive and challenging. There are many aspects to leadership: which do you excel in?
To identify your skills and style, write down everything you have accomplished and how. Then practise articulating your top skills and style in bite-sizes of 90 seconds. This will set you up well for drafting your CV and cover letters, and for networking and interviewing.
The most common question we hear in the Career Centre is: “Do I have the right background?”. If you’re asking yourself this question, you may be lacking in confidence. The reality is that your background is what it is. You cannot change it. You therefore must believe that, whatever your background, you have (or can easily acquire) the transferable and technical skills to make an impact in your next role. If you cannot convince yourself of this, you will not convince an interviewer.
To start, find a thread through your prior roles that leads to whatever job you want to do next. Usually, this will be a set of transferable skills that you have developed, coupled with a deep interest in the business of your target organisation. Skills plus commitment = ideal employee!
Then think about your achievements in your current and past roles. What were they and how did you accomplish them? What was the impact on the business and how did you, and your organisation, grow as a result?
Finally, ask yourself what you want to achieve in your next role. What tools will you need? How long will it take? How will this benefit your prospective employer? Defining and articulating the impact you can make will help demonstrate that you understand your target organisation’s needs.
There is nothing wrong with focus in a job search. Many people will advise you to decide what you want and go for it, and nothing else! That’s fine – except you may not know what else is out there and how else you can put your skills to productive use. Dividing your job search into four categories can help:
These options are not in order of priority. They are simply equally valid alternatives that might lead to a positive and happy outcome, irrespective of your starting point.
Researching and identifying roles and opportunities within each of these categories and assigning a probability to them, given your transferable skillset, will open your mind to a much wider set of careers than you can ever have imagined. When looking at roles in any of the above categories, highlight the skills you have in green and those you don’t in red. You are probably the right candidate for many more jobs than you think!
Networking is the lynchpin of any good career. We network instinctively without knowing it. Yet, when we’re asked to network proactively, we often freeze! To overcome this aversion, think of networking as relationship building rather than job hunting. You’re more likely to get a meeting with someone if you offer to share something interesting. But if you simply write to them asking for a job, the likelihood is they will ignore your request or pass it on to HR.
Applying for advertised jobs is something of a lottery as you’re likely to be competing with multiple applicants. But if someone specifically asks you to apply for a job, they likely have you or someone with your characteristics in mind for a vacancy. They may even create a job just for you. It does happen!
Headhunters often reach out to the market to ask 10 people if they know 10 people who might be suitable. This gives them a pool of at least 100 applicants to consider. If you have networked well, your name might be put forward. Indeed, any time you network you’re really looking to tap into someone else’s network. If you reach out to 10 people and leave a good impression, they might collectively pass your details to 100 people they know who have a job that’s right for you! It is not who you know, it is who knows you that matters.
Networking enables you to tap into a hidden job market where candidates are referred to jobs, by recommendation, that they would otherwise never have heard about.
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