Careers advice > Swap sectors with transferable skills

Swap sectors with transferable skills

Business people play a game of musical chairs

You don’t just have to apply for jobs you can demonstrate direct experience in. The job market has changed: you’re no longer expected to remain in the same role with the same employer for the whole of your career. In fact, today’s employer recognises the benefits of wider experience.

If you fancy a change of direction, identifying transferable skills can help you to move across job titles and into new industry sectors.

What are transferable skills?

Transferable skills can be role-related, technical or general skills that can be put to use in a variety of jobs across a number of industries. Many employers look at more than just job titles, preferring to concentrate on a candidate's relevant skills and experience.

Generic skills high on employers' wish lists include IT, numeracy and languages. Other general skills include:

  • Communication
  • Research and planning
  • Interaction and liaison skills
  • Organisation, management and leadership

Where might your skills apply?

Retail jobs

“Retail has a turnover of up to 50% a year,” says John Dean, chief executive of the British Shops and Stores Association. "This means there are a huge number of opportunities for people from various sectors, particularly on the shop floor."

Anyone with customer-facing skills would be well-placed to find a job in the retail sector. Team leaders from various industries could be equally effective managing teams within a retail environment.

Management jobs

General management skills are highly desirable, so good managers can often transfer between sectors. The key is leadership, and businesses across the board are on the hunt for managers with proven leadership qualities.

Charity jobs

If you’re done with making money for corporations, skills gained in advertising, marketing, PR and communications are highly valuable to the not for profit sector.

It can pay to think laterally regarding movement across sectors. There is often, for example, a shortage of trust fundraisers, who raise money from wealthy trusts formed by rich families and companies. According to Stephen Perrett, managing director of charity recruitment agency Execucare, the job requires good business skills, precise communication, analytical skills, plus the ability to deal with large complex organisations and pull together people of different disciplines. It may not sound obvious but a chartered engineer would have these skills.

How do you find a job in a new sector?

Research different sectors and see what opportunities - is just one place you can look. Alternatively, recruitment agencies have a good overview of sectors and will be able to let you know if you have the right transferable skills to move over and what additional training you might need.

How do you present your CV for a change of career?

Your CV and covering letter should present your experience in a way that is directly applicable to the job you're looking for. So, if you're seeking a career change, we’d recommend you move away from a chronological CV and instead lead with bullet points highlighting relevant core skills.

"Ensure that your covering letter sounds positive about previous work experiences and keen for new challenges," says author of Creating a Successful CV, Simon Howard.


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