How your existing skills could open up 13 other career doors

Think changing your career is just a pipe dream? Think again. You might already have the skills for another career.

1 job equals 13 skills

In uncertain times like these, thinking about a big job change can either feel incredibly daunting, or unavoidable if your previous role has been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The good news is that you may already have most of the skills you need for a new career — even if it’s in a different industry.

The Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) estimate that when a person trains for or works in a job, they acquire the skills associated with 13 other jobs. In other words, you may already have many technical and soft skills from work experience and previous study that could be ported to a range of new career opportunities. 

How transferable skills can open up doors

According to the ABS, over 1 million Australians change jobs every year. While many may just be swapping companies, some are changing industries and transforming their careers altogether. These are the social workers who become lawyers, the corporate workers that become teachers, the accountants who become data analysts. 

But how do they do it? You’ll be relieved to hear that it doesn’t necessarily involve re-training from scratch. 

What the FYA calls an industry ‘cluster’ is now coming to light, with one set of skills linking closely to a myriad of other trajectories. Professionals are increasingly able to cross previously closed industry borders without having to go back to full-time university. 

For example, an experienced accountant may already have some of the technical skills needed to work in cyber security or project management. A journalist might only need to top up their skills to work in research or marketing.

Take Dr. Peta Masters for example, a Research fellow at Melbourne University who specialises in the field of AI. She studied a Bachelor of IT with RMIT through Open Universities Australia (OUA), and now works in the field.  

Peta Masters – IT student focusing on AI

From acting to AI

“Spending 20 years working as an actress and writer for TV in the UK was wonderful and I’d never even considered studying or doing anything else,” said Peta. 

“But when I made the move to Australia I needed to explore other avenues—being forced out of my comfort zone and into study opened up a whole new world and I feel really fortunate to be experiencing a new career path in AI, which is forever evolving.”

Although Peta now works in a field that’s worlds away from her original training, her previous study in psychology, plus her career in TV all come in handy today. She uses both behavioural and creative skills in the field of artificial intelligence. In doing so, she has completely reinvented her career. 

A little top-up of specialist knowledge may be required here and there, but recruiters are placing increasing value on transferable expertise, calling for applicants who can combine their existing skills from previous training with new skills in emerging fields. 

How to showcase your transferable skills 

In OUA’s Voice of Industry report, sector leaders from across Australia agreed that “the skills we’re looking for are more around transferable [soft] skills than technical skills – resilience, interpersonal skills, critical thinking.”

To become attractive to recruiters, you need to identify and showcase the skills that you’ve picked up along the way—even if they aren’t attached to a specific qualification. 

You can do this by creating a ‘transferable skills’ section on your CV. Break down any degrees you have into more specific skillsets, and add any soft skills that you’re strong in. Most importantly, demonstrate how your existing knowledge applies to the new career or industry you’re aiming for.

If you’re at a career stand-still due to COVID-19, take a moment to look at your current skills and see whether they may apply to other fields you’re interested in. You may only need a top-up in skills – such as a short course – to be well on your way to a new industry. 

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