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Entries in transferable skills (4)


Recap of Transferable Skills Workshop

Credit: inspiringinterns.comTransferable skills is a buzzword in nowadays – perhaps you’ve heard the term and wondered, "What does that really mean?"

In case you missed it, on February 3, I presented a workshop on how to identify the transferable skills you are getting from your graduate program. Transferable skills can be defined as a way to talk about your academic skills more broadly. By being able to recognize your transferable skills, you are able to talk to people outside academia and those unfamiliar with working with Ph.D./Masters students about the skills that are relevant to what they do.

In grad school, you learn to become a highly trained researcher who can understand nuanced and specialized information. This is what you are working hard to achieve, and this is to be celebrated. But it certainly isn’t the full range of skills you are learning. So what else are you getting from your graduate program? You are learning skills that go beyond technical skills and fall into other categories such as how to work on a team, how to develop and manage a project, and how to communicate difficult concepts.

The art of this is thinking about your tasks and turning them into skills. I encourage you to spend time thinking of what your transferable skills are, beyond the specific duties or tasks assigned by your advisor.

The other point I wanted to make is that graduate students often have to become their own advocates in order to show how the knowledge you have is relevant and applicable to various employers. To do that, you need to learn how to talk your skills beyond your highly specified knowledge. By being able to show what your diverse skill set is, you are opening the door to many possibilities.

Stay tuned for this popular workshop to be held again in the near future!


Making Sense of Your Career Transition Narrative

“No one has to know everything about how you got to where you are. They just have to know enough that it makes sense for you to be there.”

Credit: "Defehrt epinglier pl2," designed by Goussier, engraved by Defehrt. Diderot's Encyclopédie (1762).In a recent article on Vitae, Elizabeth Keenan says that this is the single best piece of advice she got on making a career switch. What's important to potential hires is that you demonstrate your experience (or your transferable skills) in a way that they understand and that gives them incentive to take a risk on you. How do you do this? Keenan gives three specific tips:

  1. Craft a positive personal narrative. Leave behind the maudlin personal narrative that you may have internalized if you've grown frustrated with academia. Instead, present your personal narrative with a beginning (how I gained relevant skills), a middle (what I’m doing to develop them further), and an end (how I can help you at your company with said skills) that explains your transition in a positive way. Practice and internalize your new narrative until it is second nature and it emerges in all of your job application materials.
  2. Your narrative starts with your resume. It can be hard winnowing down your research and academic experience to just the relevant stuff that is valuable to a particular employer. But you have to be ruthless. You may need to go through several drafts and get lots of feedback from different sources. Keenan says, "The lesson here is to focus, but not with such a laser beam that you look frightening to a nonacademic employer. Your résumé should make sense for the position, even if that means leaving off a few accolades."
  3. Don't write an academic-style cover letter. Academic cover letters are often overly long, filled with jargon, and stiffly phrased. A non-academic job letter should be short (which means concise, engaged, and direct) and contain three paragraphs: why you want this job, what experience you can bring, and how excited (but not creepy-excited) you are to change careers.
  4. Don't be afraid to get additional training. Keenan says, "Make sure to demonstrate that you are aware of the standard requirements of your new field. This kind of continuing education shows commitment, which employers like to see in people they hire."
  5. You still may not get the job, even after getting (and acing) the interview. Both inside and outside of academia, there are always factors outside of your control in the job search. This is simply a reality that you have to face.
  6. Changing careers is difficult, but not impossible. As Keenan says, "Focus on the positive aspects of your narrative. Hone your résumé. Take breaks when you feel overwhelmed. Talk with others about your fears, but keep your game face on when interviewing. Who knows? You may end up with a whole new career that you like even more than academia."

Read Keenan's full article on Vitae's website here.

To get regular updates from Vitae, sign up for their e-mail digest, or connect via Facebook or Twitter.


How to Cope with the Challenges of a Career Transition

Credit: "Defehrt epinglier pl2," designed by Goussier, engraved by Defehrt. Diderot's Encyclopédie (1762)Coming to a career transition point can feel an awful lot like failure. But, as Elizabeth Kennan argues in a recent article on Vitae, failure can actually be a useful thing. She offers some straightforward advice from her experience with a career transition:

  • Read the books and take the personality tests. Your skills will fit in a lot of different places – some you expect and others you don’t. So ignore the quiet voice in your head that keeps telling you it’s useless to take personality tests or read books about changing careers. If you can get that voice to shut up, you will learn how you work and what your values are, and find career paths that match those values. Visit our campus Career Services desk to sign up for the assessments.
  • Ask for help. Talk to a job coach, career counselor, family member, or friend to offer encouragement, advice, and connections.
  • Do a lot of informational interviews. These can provide useful insights such as a lot of people have unpredictable career paths, the importance of figuring out your personal narrative, and that there may be certain careers you should avoid.
  • Don't be a career snob. Well-meaning friends and family (and even you) may express resistance against a career that may be suitable for you just because it's deemed "low status."
  • You will have bad days. Mourning and second-guessing are normal parts of the career transition process. The more you embrace this, the easier it will be to let go.

Read the full article on Vitae's website here.

To get regular updates from Vitae, sign up for their e-mail digest, or connect via Facebook or Twitter.


Transferable Skills: Making Your PhD Work for You

Credit: Kate at Flickr.comMost current and recent PhDs regularly hear about (or are lectured about) the abysmal state of the academic job market. Whether in science or the humanities, the statistics are indeed grim. This has led to an influx of resources – such as the Versatile PhD website and nonacademic job search guides – for those leaving academia to seek jobs in civil service or industry (as well as the advent of terms like post-ac and alt-ac).

Recent GradPost articles have offered advice on how to build your nonacademic profile and how to navigate the non-academic labor market. Below are other helpful resources from the Naturejobs blog, a dedicated science jobs board hosted by the journal Nature.

How to become a science adviser for films and TV shows. This fascinating podcast interviews several scientists who have successfully marketed their skills to Hollywood producers and directors to become consultants on science-driven shows such as Breaking Bad, The Big Bang Theory, and Bones. Find out more about entertaining science here.

Transferable skills and storytelling. Developing and identifying transferable skills is one thing. Being able to communicate those skills and demonstrate how you've used them is another. This article explains how to use storytelling as a strategy to portray your transferable skills in job interviews.

How to look your best on paper (part 1 and part 2). Part 1 gives advice on how to market your academically developed skills in business-ready ways for career paths such as project management, research and development, and technical sales. Part 2 lays out the key differences between a CV and a resume, and how and when to use each.

For individualized help on navigating the job market (whether inside or outside academia), schedule an appointment with UCSB's Career Services or professional development peer advisor Shawn Warner-Garcia.