When considering transitioning from academia to industry, it can be quite daunting to enter the professional world. It has an entirely different mindset, and therefore it can be difficult to relate your academic skills and training to the expectations and standards in a non-academic environment. It is therefore essential to understand your skills and competencies instead of assuming that your credentials speak for themselves. Skills have been developed over the course of your academic work, as well as any non-academic work, or volunteering you have done, and these skills can be used to your advantage when embarking on the process of developing your career. You can determine the kind of job you want to pursue and the roles that mesh best with your strengths by looking for careers that involve the skills you’re best at or that you most enjoy using. There are three main types of skills that employers look for; you will need to identify which ones you possess and which skills you may want to work on to follow your desired career path. The three types of skills are transferable, technical, and knowledge skills.
Any abilities and talents that are relevant across many career paths, regardless of industry, and are useful socially and personally, are your transferable skills. Because transferable skills are relevant for many career paths, it is important to incorporate them into your resume and/or cover letter when applying for jobs. Most people tend to work at least three different careers in their life, and these transferable skills come with you as your life path changes over time. Transferable skills include both hard skills, which are those that we can easily quantify, and soft skills, which are more like personal attributes, interpersonal skills, and character traits that are more difficult to measure.
Here are a few examples of both hard and soft transferable skills that are highly valued by employers and are thus useful to master, no matter the career path you wish to pursue.
Hard Transferable Skills
Research and Analytical Skills → This refers to your ability to gather, interpret and analyze information or data. These skills are commonly built during your education, and continue to be relevant in most careers. Even if you are not directly involved in research at your job, you will likely need to find solutions to various problems, and being able to problem solve the issues at hand will help you in almost all roles - even in those you wouldn’t expect. For example, a cashier will come across issues during their day that they will need to quickly analyze and resolve. This can include anything from assisting disgruntled customers to managing a product return. You need to be able to assess the situation and determine the best course of action, and your analytical skills can help with that!
Writing → It is very likely that this skill will be a part of any career you pursue, even if it may not be the primary task of every role. With strong writing skills, you can communicate and convey messages succinctly with colleagues and clients. You can also concisely deliver information such as reports or articles catered to specific audiences.
Numeracy Skills → Many jobs require you to have a basic understanding of mathematics and numeracy. This refers to your ability to work effectively with numbers, which includes performing basic calculations, and understanding graphs and simple statistics. This skill comes in handy even in jobs that don’t seem to involve working with numbers. This skill is one that is lacking in the job market today, and thus is a valuable asset to have for employability.
Soft Transferable Skills
Listening → This skill is undoubtedly applicable to all jobs on the market. Being able to actively listen to those you interact with in your job is essential for completing your tasks as well as possible. In order to problem solve, resolve conflict, collaborate, or engage with your team or clients, listening and understanding what others are communicating to you is key. It is also important to listen to your boss or employer in order to fully comprehend what the expectations of the job are.
Teamwork & Dependability → These skills refer to the ability to work together with others in order to achieve a common goal, and be a dependable worker that others can confidently rely on to accomplish tasks. Being able to contribute ideas, make compromises, follow the directions of your leader or lead a team yourself, and communicate effectively and respectfully with others are all transferable to most jobs. Employers want employees who are eager to work with others and get the job done. If you work independently, you will still want to practice being dependable to customers or clients and keep the door open to collaborate with others in the future.
Time Management → This refers to your ability to use your time wisely in order to meet deadlines and be efficient with your assigned tasks. Whether you work for yourself or have a large team of people depending on you, you will want to hone in on your ability to manage your time effectively so that you can complete everything you need to and be able to maintain a work-life balance within your career.
These are only a few examples of transferable skills, and there are plenty more that employers look for that will also give you a leg up in your career. Others include creative thinking, leadership, independence, relationship building, attention to detail, adaptability, personal motivation, and organizational skills are all important to have as well. Review these transferable skills and evaluate which ones you possess and which ones may need a little more development. This way, you can make sure that you are not only ready to be employed for your dream job, but you are also aware of exactly what your dream job is and what experiences are transferable to it!
The second type of skills that you can professionalize on your career journey, are called technical skills. These skills can be thought of as your ability to effectively use different types of technology. This type of skill is becoming increasingly important and desirable given the rise in technology use in the workplace. This category of skills is necessary to have in just about every industry, whether it be IT, education, health care, business, and more. If you aren’t sure if you have any technical skills under your belt, proficiencies in the following programs are widely required in varying industries: Adobe; Microsoft Office including Word, PowerPoint and Excel; Photoshop; HTML; Google Workspace including Google Docs, Google Drive, Google Meet and Google Sheets; Zoom; Skype; DropBox; social media; and Canva. If you can use any of these programs comfortably, this will give you an easier time during the job application process as well as after you are hired given how commonly used these programs are. To gain proficiency in any of these applications, there are free tutorials available online for most of these programs. Additionally, you can become certified in many of these applications through websites such as LinkedIn and Coursera. Becoming certified in Microsoft Office, for instance, will show employers that you really do know how to navigate this application, and the process of getting certified will help you brush up on your skills. Other highly useful technical skills include proficiency in operating systems such as MacOS and Windows; the ability to implement cybersecurity; computer programming; and graphic design.
The third type of skill that will help you in your professional career, is what we call knowledge skills. This type of skill includes what you know and understand. You can build knowledge skills through coursework at school, work experiences, internships, volunteer work, and even through personal research and learning endeavours. When you know what industry you are interested in building a career in, it is helpful to build your knowledge based on what you need to know to be successful in that industry. It is crucial however that when you build knowledge of a specific subject, that you also accompany that knowledge with the abilities and skills to apply it. For example, having an understanding of the Fishbone model, which is a tool for root cause analysis, does not necessarily mean that you have practiced using it and thus have the skills to apply the model in real life situations. Thus it is essential that you take the knowledge you have that is relevant to your career path, and practice building the necessary skills to apply that knowledge. In any case, knowledge is yet another essential skill to use on your professional journey.
On the whole, the labour market today asks us to not only be knowledgeable on relevant subjects within our field, but to also have an array of transferable and technical skills, which typically come from practice and experience. Academia gives you a vast array of skills that can make you an asset in the professional world, but it is essential to translate these skills into a language that potential employers can understand. While this can make entering the professional world challenging and overwhelming at times, you fortunately already have skills that you can hone in on from your life experiences - you just have to dig deep and learn what they are! Try making a list of all the different skills you currently possess, and ask yourself how those skills could benefit a workplace. Choose a few skills you want to develop further and carry into the professional space, and use them to your advantage! With the wavering state of the world, know that we are all in this together, and that with a little determination, we are confident your personal skill set coupled with your knowledge base will get you to where you want to go.
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