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Creatives: Making a Career Change? How to Highlight Your Transferable Skills

Whether you’ve realized that you started your career in the wrong field, or you’re simply looking for a change of pace, taking the leap to switch career paths is no easy task. Many creative professionals often realize this when they get a small taste of something they love to do in their current job, and it can be a wake-up call that they’re not entirely happy.  “This can occur quite frequently in creative fields, especially in a market where job seekers have a clear advantage,” says Jaymee Kruysman, a Staffing Manager within The Execu|Search Group’s Fashion & Retail division.  “However, anyone looking to make this change should still be ready to face some tough competition.”

If you’re invested in making a career change in a creative field, you will most likely find that your background is lacking some experience that would make you a better fit for the positions you’re applying to.  However, that doesn’t mean you’re totally out of luck.  “By showing your potential through your transferable skills, you can still be considered a contender,” says Kathryn Coury, an Associate within The Execu|Search Group’s Creative & Digital division.  “Sometimes, that fresh perspective is exactly what the employer is looking for.”

However, making this leap requires commitment throughout the application process, and it will require you to sell your transferable skills each step of the way.  When approaching this in the application and interview process, here are the steps you can take to highlight those transferable skills:

First, review each job description thoroughly

As you read each job description, you’ll be able to determine not only which skills you are lacking, but more importantly, the qualities that will make you most valuable to the employer.  “Identifying in-demand qualities and skills, such as critical thinking or data analysis, can help you reflect on review your previous experience to decide where you shine in those disciplines the most,” says Kathryn.  “This might be different for every available position, so it is crucial to first determine those desired skills before proceeding in the application process.”

Tailor your resume

Next, you’ll want to ensure the skills you’ve identified are addressed on your resume.  However, you’ll want to do more than simply add a few more details under your employment history.  “To be more strategic about highlighting an experience that you feel would transfer well into this new role, you’ll want to use action words, and indicate the outcome you achieved as a result of your work,” Jaymee says.  “Additionally, place that information at the top of your bulleted list so that the employer is more likely to see those transferable skills

Address the transition through your cover letter

Although you don’t have to go into too much detail, your cover letter is still the perfect place to mention your transition.  “Along with highlighting those transferable skills that you’ve identified, take this opportunity to tell your story,” recommends Kathryn.  “This can give some added context to your application, and it can show your passion for this new path.”

Expand your portfolio

When making a career change, you may not have the robust body of work that your competition may have, but this is an excellent opportunity to showcase the work you have accomplished in your own right.  “Through a general portfolio, you may find that you can display your creative transferable skills through previous projects that show your potential,” says Jaymee.  For example, if you haven’t written copy for an ad campaign, but you have written copy for blogs or social media, you can highlight that similar copywriting experience in your portfolio.  “Or, take some of your own time to produce some new, original work to really show what you’re capable of,” advises Jaymee.  “There are so many ways to display your creativity and your nontraditional background in this manner, and it can prove to employers that you can provide out-of-the-box ideas for their organization.”

Prepare to make your case in the interview

Once your application gets your foot in the door, the interview is the time where it is most critical to sell your value to the organization.  “To prove that you can make the transition to a new field, it’s important to not only convey your passion for the industry, but also show that you’ve done your research,” says Kathryn.  “To do this, you should expand on how your unique background complements the role.”

Lastly, don’t be afraid to seek outside help

As with any big life change, you should never be afraid to seek help from others.  “Breaking into a new field or industry can be difficult if you go it alone,” notes Kathryn.  “That’s why it’s important to consider your professional network.  If you know a former colleague or recruiter who can help you make a more personal connection with an employer, don’t hesitate to reach out.  If that person is able to vouch for you, the company may be much more likely to trust that they can take a chance on you.”  If this strategy works for you, just remember to pay it forward if the opportunity arises.