“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
You hear this question throughout childhood and adolescence. But somehow, you’re supposed to have it figured out by age 18 and know exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life before heading to college.
If you’re like me, though, picking a major and career wasn’t easy. I initially started with music, then changed to history, and ultimately got a degree in theater. For my master’s, I majored in something even more esoteric: performance studies.
I had dreams of working in arts education and eventually becoming a professor. But after getting my master’s degree, I realized academia wasn’t for me. As I decided to commit my life to arts education, I ended up moving to another city where jobs in my field were few and far between — and highly competitive.
I wondered, “What the hell am I going to do?”
I am now (happily) employed as a freelance writer, but it wasn’t without a lot of hard work and trial and error. As a student loan borrower, it does feel weird to not even be working in the field that I got into so much debt pursuing.
On the other hand, I’ve transferred my skills into this career and am much happier than I was working in any other field. Plus, I was able to pay off my debt even faster.
If you can’t find work in your field due to high competition, or you are stuck in a low-paying position because of your field, don’t worry – you’re not alone. According to CareerBuilder, one-third of college-educated employees aren’t working in fields related to their majors.
Fortunately, it is possible to transfer your skills to another career. Here’s how to make the switch.
Assess ALL of your skills
I always had dreams of being self-employed, but thought I was going to be working in nonprofits for life. However, once I found myself stuck in low-paying, unfulfilling work, I found a way to transfer my skills.
If you want to do the same, the first thing you need to do is create an inventory of all your skills. Lauren Milligan, Career Advancement Coach from ResuMAYDAY, said, “First, identify your transferrable skills from your ENTIRE catalog of skills. Go back a few years to assess all of your skills, not just the ones you used on your last (or current) job.”
Think of all the skills you picked up in school, through work, volunteering, or hobbies. Include both hard and soft skills; hard skills are things like knowing how to code or write effectively, whereas soft skills include things like being a good communicator or a team player.
Typically, it’s easier for employers to teach hard skills rather than train someone to have soft skills. Create a comprehensive list of both and outline all the skills and abilities that you bring to the table.
Identify your desired industry
Once you’ve assessed all your transferable skills, including the hard and soft skills, identify what industry you want to work in. Consider what type of work you value and will challenge and propel you forward.
If you’re unsure, use websites like LinkedIn or Indeed to search job descriptions for applicable positions that might be of interest. When you find job descriptions that match your transferable skills and your values, narrow down which industries you want to target.
Next, tap your network for colleagues who might already be working in that field. Take them out for coffee, ask them good questions, and build genuine relationships.
When I first started out as a freelance writer, I emailed nearly 20 people who were already career professionals and asked for advice. Of course, you don’t just want to spam someone’s inbox and ask for tons of free advice, but if you keep it short and simple, people generally want to help.