When relocating, Andrea wondered how to translate her skills to potential employers. In this blog, Andrea shares how to identify transferable skills.
This is our first “Inside Voices” blog. For the series, we’re periodically interviewing professionals at different points in their careers – and in the employee lifecycle – to hear about their experiences and insights around skills and competencies. We hope you like it!
When Andrea and her young family moved from California to the East Coast, she knew it was a move away from the fickle entertainment industry that so defines Los Angeles. She also knew she no longer wanted to be a freelance writer for a large company. Her biggest question was how to identify transferable skills. She asked herself, “How can I translate the value of my experience and skills to potential employers who don’t understand the film, television and streaming industry?”
In this “Inside Voices” edition, we share Andrea’s take on how to identify transferable skills.
Avilar: Why did you leave Los Angeles?
Andrea: The pandemic was a catalyst for us. We had been toying with the idea of moving closer to family, but once the entertainment industry shut down, the pandemic forced us to face the uncertainty that comes with short-lived jobs tied to a single film or TV season.
Avilar: What was your education and work experience before you accepted the role you’re in now?
Andrea: My background is television production and writing. I have a BA in Writing for TV and Film and did a lot of copywriting work. When we made the move, I was developing my copywriting skills while being a stay-at-home mom. At the time, I worked as a freelance copywriter, creating blog posts and editorials for a large clothing retailer.
Avilar: What were you looking for in your new role?
Andrea: Once my daughter was in kindergarten (and could physically go to school) I wanted the security and fulfillment of full-time work. My priorities were finding a job I could learn from and potentially grow with. I wanted to pursue a new path that involved my experience in writing and working with high-profile clients, but I also wanted to learn new skills and be able to apply them with some autonomy. I also wanted to find something that allowed for more of a work/life balance, so I could still be there for my kids and not carry unnecessary stress home from work.
Avilar: What were some of the obstacles you faced when hunting for a job?
Andrea: Television production and the entertainment industry are big mysteries to anyone who hasn’t experienced them. The natural end of one TV season and start of the next can look like job gaps to the uninitiated. Also, “Staff Writer,” “Writers Assistant,” and “Script Coordinator” job titles don’t convey the breadth of copywriting, copy editing, research, and “talent” support that goes into the roles. But it’s hard to communicate that to someone who can’t see past the “glam” factor of the industry.
Avilar: How did you communicate your ability to transfer skills to a new career?
Andrea: At first, it was extremely difficult. It was hard to get past the applicant tracking systems employers use to screen job candidates. Though I knew I had a wealth of transferable skills, I couldn’t leave it up to the HR software or hiring manager to connect the dots. Ultimately, I would rewrite my resume to match each job description, doing my best to match keywords and skills to make it through the system. I also focused on my cover letter to relate my skills and experience to the open job and field I was applying to. Lastly, I put a lot of effort into networking with contacts to make a personal connection.
Avilar: Please share how you identified transferable skills.
Andrea: The problem I kept coming up against in the job search was that I would have some of the required experience, but not all. So, I focused on the skills I did have. It turns out that I had a wealth of relatable and translatable skills! My college education showed that I had a capacity to learn. Writing TV scripts and podcasts taught me how to craft compelling stories out of sparks of ideas. Writing ad copy and blogs for a fashion retailer taught me about SEO and persuasive copy. As an administrative assistant to the show boss, I honed my project management skills, my ability to work with powerful personalities, and resourcefulness.
Avilar: Did you do any training or brush up on any skills you thought would be needed in a new career?
Andrea: I took some courses on LinkedIn and got “LinkedIn certified” on skills that I already had a foundation in but wanted to know more about. There’s always a learning curve in a new role. If I don’t know something, I look for other sources (like LinkedIn or YouTube videos) to try to get a handle on it.
Avilar: You just celebrated one year as a full-time Client Communications Manager at a branding and design firm. How did you find the job?
Andrea: In the end, it was networking that worked. I happened to meet the owner of the agency when my husband was shooting a set of videos for one of their clients. I could tell that it would be a fun and healthy work environment.
Avilar: We’re curious. Did you write a cover letter for the new job?
Andrea: I did! In it, I set the stage for my story with, “My professional journey may not be a conventional one, but I feel like it has prepared me for a collaborative and creative role like this.”
Avilar: What is it about the current role that drew you to the position?
Andrea: I liked that the role offers lots of opportunity for growth. It allows me to use a lot of the skills I already had from my previous career, including client management, communication, writing and creative direction, and project management. And I’m continuing to learn new skills and advance the ones I have.
Avilar: What has been the key to your skill development over the past year?
Andrea: The key has been an “I’ll give it a try” attitude. I have the support and resources to be able to try something and, if I’m not quite hitting the mark, to ask for help and assistance. And then try again. Having access to feedback has been so helpful. Having a boss with patience and the willingness to train has been key. I am so much more confident in what I do now entering my second year in this role. My employer is also open to my ideas and perspectives on how to approach something differently from time to time. I feel like I’m still learning every day, stretching out of my professional comfort zone and trying new things for clients and the team.
Avilar: What advice do you have for jobseekers who are relocating or changing careers?
Andrea: Don’t expect to land that dream job overnight. There’s a lot of trial and error involved with the job search process. Take a look at your resume and see how you can optimize the keywords you’re using on your resume so you can get beyond the computer search and in front of a person. And don’t write off the cover letter. Write, re-write, and then write it again if necessary. This is where you can stand out and state your case as to why you’re a good fit for the role. Also, be honest. Tell your potential future employer what you are great at – and what you’re still learning. Finally, utilize the job search time to learn a new skill and network.
Avilar: What do you want HR leaders and hiring managers to know?
Andrea: There’s value in looking at candidates who have experience in the workforce, but are not a “perfect fit.” A person taking on the exciting challenge of re-careering can bring a fresh perspective to the position that you weren’t expecting. Be open to training. Be available for honest communication. Encourage a learning curve to reach that max potential. Offer skills assessments and educational training resources so new hires can learn as they go and grow their confidence in the role. Having a resource for training as you learn is a great asset to a new employee.
Avilar: Any last thoughts?
Andrea: At first, I didn’t have the confidence to come across as an expert in my role. Having a boss with patience – one who is available to teach without getting frustrating – helped me know what I did right and where I could grow.
If you enjoyed Andrea’s story, here is Zach’s story – What Makes a Good Mentor at Work for a College Student?
If you’re looking for ways to find employees with the skills you need – and develop the employees you have, download our Competency Management Toolkit to get started Or contact us to find out how Avilar’s WebMentor Skills™ competency management systems can help.
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