Using your skills to change careers

I’ve had many different jobs in my life in many different, seemingly unrelated, industries: but every single one has contributed to my current career.

Last month we discussed using general life experience as examples of the soft skills you possess when applying for jobs, but what if you are looking to change careers or take a step up? For instance, how do you move from hospitality, retail, entry level positions or parenting responsibilities into a career in business and accounting?

The right skills for the job

Communication skillsAs I explained in How to plan a career with no experience, it’s a great idea to research the types of skills required for your chosen position. I have just discovered a fantastic resource that is perfect for this task. O*NET Online has a complete list of occupations, and the skills required to do them, which makes the task so much easier than trawling job sites.

Let’s use the positions of General Office Clerk and Bookkeeper as examples. Both require high-level communication skills in reading comprehension, written expression, active listening, and effective speaking. Being able to learn new technology quickly along with effective time management and problem-solving skills, are also requirements for both positions.

Let’s take CAR for a drive

The CAR technique is a way to approach job applications and interviews to show, not tell, the skills you currently possess First ask yourself what Challenge you have faced that has been solved using this skill, then what Action you took to overcome it. Finally, what was the Result, in what ways did you improve the situation? Now let’s look at some examples and see how you can apply the CAR method to highlight your soft skills.

What if I work in retail or hospitality?

Both hospitality and retails workers, have extensive customer service and negotiation skills: you have to to deal with customers day in, day out. These skills, in turn, can provide you with helpful communication and problem-solving techniques useful in an office environment, or when dealing with clients.

A hospitality worker’s verbal communication and negotiation skills are highly valued, as is your ability to actively listen and perceptively respond to non-verbal cues in customers. An office is somewhat like a restaurant; there are lots people with their own sets of responsibilities who need to work together as a team to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Here’s an example of how you could use the CAR technique to showcase organization skills gained in the retail sector.

  • The storeroom was chaotic, making it difficult to find stock when required. I implemented a new stocktake procedure and rearranged the stock so that the most frequently retrieved items were in the most accessible areas. Not only was labor time significantly reduced, but we also saved $X per week in purchasing duplicate stock.

What if I want to take the next step in my Administration career?

If you already work in administration, it is a relatively simple matter to apply these soft skills to the work you are already doing on-the-job. Instead, you will need to focus on those skills that will aid you in career advancement.

Adaptability to change, leadership and critical thinking skills are all key characteristics valued by employers when considering candidates for promotion. If you would like more information about the skills that can make you stand out from the crowd, check out this great list from Glassdoor, highlighting six important soft skills, and why you need them to further your career.

Use CAR to highlight how you have the adaptability and leadership skills required to take on a higher position.

  • A new software system was installed and had disrupted existing work procedures. I discussed the changes with my fellow staff members, discovered the main areas where issues were occurring, and proceeded to rewrite all policy and procedure documents to reflect the changes and new systems that were required. As a result, staff was able to adjust quickly to the new technology with renewed confidence in their ability to work autonomously.

Skills are a breeze when you’re a parent

Honestly, if you are a parent, you have all of the above covered. If you can successfully negotiate with a three-year-old you can communicate with the best of them. You are so well organized you can cook dinner, supervise homework and pay the bills simultaneously without burning or berating anyone or anything. You know how to keep up with new technology, because how else are you going to fix the iPad that has been acting up ever since Mr 5 played Minecraft. And finally, nobody knows how to problem solve like a parent of a toddler with a piece of Lego stuck up their nose.

Here’s an example of using CAR to describe time-management skills gained as a parent.

  • I needed to begin career planning while continuing to care for my children. I started an online learning program that enabled me to study when my children were asleep or occupied. I successful completed the CCI Business and Accounting program and am ready for the next phase of my career.

Combining the hard and the soft when it comes to skills

A solid understanding of business finance is required in most office administration, business and accounting positions. With CCI Training Center’s new Business and Accounting Program, you can gain valuable experience in communication, customer service, and management skills, while developing a range of technical expertise in relevant software and accounting procedures.

Using the CAR technique is the perfect way to address selection criteria in your cover letters and resumes, as well as ensuring you have practical examples of your soft skills to use during interviews. To find out more about using this technique in your resume, check out this useful guide by Anish Majumdar.