Thinking about making a career transition? Highlight your transferable skills.

by Rachael Altman
previously published 3/4/14

Thinking about making a career transition? Highlight your transferable skills.

rachaelaltmanI enjoy a good challenge and I like to learn something new every day so I recently inquired about making a transition from an academic library job to a research position in a corporate or legal environment. I received many useful, inspirational, and practical responses from colleagues, friends, and new LinkedIn connections.

The short of it is that librarians hold the necessary skills and knowledge to make a smooth transition into the corporate or legal sector. Victor Epstein, research analyst at AlphaSights, notes that “the core skills of research are applicable in most corporate or legal sectors and humanities majors and associated personal qualities can be very valued in the corporate sector.”

Librarians have a number of transferable skills, traits, and knowledge that are valuable inside and outside of the world of libraries. Your greatest strategy for career success may be using what you already know.

What are transferable skills? Transferable skills are innate skills acquired throughout life and can be easily applied to a new job or work environment. Take a look at this Transferable Skills Checklist to help you discover your natural skills and begin to think about how these skills can be applied in various occupational fields. While you may need to gain hard skills [technical or administrative] or soft skills [communication, teamwork, and attitude] in order to shift from one career to another or from one library type to another, you can easily build off your strong foundation of core skills, including:

• Communication skills, in writing and in person
• Presentation skills
• Critical thinking skills
• Research skills
• Intellectual curiosity
• Knowledge of a variety of subjects
• Partnership, collaboration, and teamwork
• Creativity, curiosity, and open-mindedness
• Integrity

Here are a few helpful tips that I compiled from librarians and information professionals that can help you make the transition into a corporate or legal environment:

1. Take business classes: financial accounting, introduction to marketing, information management, and data mining.

2. Learn the corporate buzzwords and learn to speak and think like someone in the business.

3. Beef up or acquire specific skills: basic statistics, qualitative and quantitative analysis, and learn to pick apart a company’s 10-K filing (available via

4. Take advantage of MOOCs and courses through Khan Academy. It’s okay to let potential employers know that you learned this stuff by taking an odd class or going online—lifelong learners make the best candidates.

5. Get involved with professional organizations—such as, American Library Association, Special Libraries Association (specifically the Competitive Intelligence Division), and American Law Librarian Association. These organizations offer a number of professional development opportunities, including webinars, courses, and networking opportunities.

6. Do your homework! Do some really good research on people who have the jobs you want to have and companies you’d like to work for.

Transitions can be terrifying. Shifting careers is often hard to explain. It might be a little risky. You might question whether or not you’re really qualified. You might fear failure, success, or the unknown.

In the 85 Broads article Overcoming Fear and Just Doing It, Farhana Huq drops truth bombs when she says: “Transition, at some deep level, is about recognizing your fears and taking a step towards them.” Be brave, courageous, and accepting of all outcomes.


Taking the leap of faith, and jumping headfirst may be easier said than done, but the payoff could be huge.

Forward movement is essential to all success in life—so, ask yourself What’s stopping me?

Dorie Clark’s article How to Explain Your Career Transition notes the importance of “identifying the underlying themes that connect your professional experiences” because

• People like stories
• Developing a compelling narrative will help people understand you and your new career path
• It’s helpful to connect the dots—how did you get to where you are now and how will you get to where you want to go?

In order to be successful on the job hunt, and truly successful in anything you do, you must know your strengths and weaknesses, passions, what you want, and why you’re doing what you do. If you are driven by passion, you will be successful because you’ll be happy with the outcome. Figure out what you love to do and find someone to pay you to do it. It sounds cliché, but you must know yourself. Keep an open mind. Be flexible, yet strong./

  1 comment for “Thinking about making a career transition? Highlight your transferable skills.

Comments are closed.