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Are Your Transferable Skills Helping or Hurting Your Career Transition?

By Kevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck
National Certified Career Counselors and Life Calling CoachesSM

CBN.comAre you looking to make a career change, but haven't been successful getting into the new field? Elizabeth wanted to get out of direct sales into a corporate training position, but found that she wasn't getting interviews for the type of job she wanted. Instead, she found that employers wanted to interview her for yet another sales position. Can you guess why this was happening?

Avoid the Classic Job Search Mistake

Like many job seekers, Elizabeth had dutifully prepared a chronological resume that listed each of her sales positions with her major responsibilities and accomplishments in each job. She felt that her resume showed that she was an outstanding employee who was good with people and could succeed in whatever she did. In her cover letter, she expressed her desire to transition into a training position in which she could help others to grow professionally and become more successful in their work. She was perplexed that she had gotten no response from employers who had training positions open.

So what was she doing wrong? As you have probably figured out, when employers looked at her resume they saw a successful salesperson, not a trainer. On average, employers spend about 30 seconds looking at a resume. They are skimming what is highlighted in the resume; they are not taking the time to "read between the lines" to see if the applicant could potentially do something else with their skills. Elizabeth's chronological resume contained these types of bullet points:

  • Five years successful experience in both inside and outside hotel sales.
  • Consistently exceeded sales goals for corporate bookings.
  • Organized and implemented a two-week "sales blitz" that increased sales by 55%.
  • Delivered well-received sales presentations to key corporate clients; brought in the most new accounts of all sales staff.

It is no wonder Elizabeth was being solicited for sales positions! The transferable skills and accomplishments she highlights in her resume did a great job of showing what a terrific salesperson she was. However, they did little to demonstrate what she had to offer as a trainer. To be seen as a viable candidate for a training position, Elizabeth had to make some substantive changes in the information she presented in her resume.

How to Make Your Transferable Skills Work for You, not Against You

Elizabeth had developed many skills that had equipped her for a training position; skills that would "transfer" from sales to a corporate training position. The key for Elizabeth was learning how to showcase these skills so that a prospective employer saw her as a trainer, not a salesperson. Like Elizabeth, here are the steps you can take to develop a resume that will help you transition from one career field to another:

1. Research the new career to know what type of skills are needed. Use resources such as the O*NET database and the Occupational Outlook Handbook to identify the key skills (or tasks) utilized in a specific job. Conduct informational interviews with people in the field to gather information about what employers look for in hiring individuals for this type of work. Look at job postings, and make a list of the skills you see that employers want for your target position.

2. Make a list of "bullet points" that highlight the skills and experiences you have that employers are looking for when hiring for this position. Elizabeth found that this was challenging because it required her to look at her experience in a new way. She found that doing this, however, was the most important part of her job search preparation. If she didn't know precisely what she had to offer as a trainer, how could an employer ever see her abilities in this area? Elizabeth wrote 20 bulleted items that came from both her work experience and volunteer activities. Here are some of them:

  • Developed and delivered presentations to both small and large groups of managers and executives. Received positive written feedback 95% of the time for both the content and style of the presentations.
  • Trained new salespeople, resulting in 35% increase in their effectiveness within 90 days.
  • Conducted a needs analysis of clients. Created new programs to meet key needs. Received corporate recognition for the success of these programs.

3. Decide whether a chronological or functional resume format better highlights what you have to offer for the new type of position. Often a functional resume will give you as a career changer the best chance to show yourself in a new light to employers. When writing a functional resume, you choose the skill groups that are most important for the new job, then organize your bullet points under those headings. Elizabeth chose three headings for her functional resume: Training & Instructional Design; Management & Program Coordination; Marketing & Communication.

Seeing Yourself in Your New Career

After developing her new functional resume, Elizabeth could see her abilities as a trainer with much more clarity. This gave her increased confidence to pursue training positions. The process of identifying key transferable skills and experiences also prepared her for interviews. She was now ready to explain clearly and effectively why she would be a good trainer even though she had never before been hired as a corporate trainer.

The result for employers was that they could immediately see Elizabeth's qualifications for training positions. In her functional resume, her skills preceded her work history, so it wasn't until the second page that they saw her sales positions. Presenting her background in this way was the key to getting interviews, and eventually, her new job.

If you are not sure how best to showcase your skills and experiences for your career transition, consider taking advantage of our professional job search and career coaching services. Many people have found that professional assistance provides the winning edge-and cuts down the time-in obtaining their next job. If you would like to discuss how professional career coaching can help you showcase what you have to offer and conduct a more successful job search, sign up for a free consultation session today!

Kevin and Kay Marie BrennfleckKevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck, National Certified Career Counselors, are the authors of Live Your Calling: A Practical Guide to Finding and Fulfilling Your Mission in Life. Their websites,,, and,feature hundreds of job listings from churches, ministries, and Christian employers; a resume bank; and many other career/job search resources and articles. They also offer career coaching and testing to help you discover work that fits your God-given design, as well as assistance with writing a powerful resume, interviewing effectively, finding job openings, and other aspects of a successful job search. You can schedule a free consultation session today!


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