Present Your Key Skills to an Employer
If you’ve browsed job listings outside acdemia recently, you may have noticed that few require advanced degrees or academic skills (e.g. research or teaching skills) in the job description. This does not necessarily mean you are not qualified. Employers outside academia look for a core set of competencies, abilities, experiences, and values that a candidate can bring to their organization.
So, what should you do?
The short of it is that YOU DO have valuable transferable skills (e.g., here, here, here, here) that build upon and extend beyond teaching or research! You help employers see the unique set of transferable skills that might make you the perfect candidate a position.
The following steps will help you identify, develop, and communicate your transferrable skills!
Step 1: Identify your transferrable skills and make a list of your experiences, including those outside the classroom.
Review lists of transferrable skills. Become familiar with the transferrable skills employers are commonly seeking in their ideal candidates.
- The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) provide a list of Career Readiness Competencies, which is great starting point! This list was developed with input from over 600 different U.S. employers.
- Under the Build Your Skills focus area, the Graduate School’s Pathways to Success website also provides details on the types of transferable skills graduate students should seek to develop.
- Review job advertisements in a field you are interested in pursuing. This helps you figure out which transferrable skills are considered more important than others in specific fields or for specific positions.
- Make a list of all of your experience. Expand the definition of “experience” by including your volunteer work (e.g., service to your department, student organization engagement, mentoring undergraduates, etc.) and any freelance work you may have done inside or outside of academia.
Step 2: Develop your transferable skills and experiences to match your identified lists.
Seek volunteer opportunities. Experiences as a volunteer can fill some of the gaps that may exist between your existing experience and the experience and skills your desired position may require.
Attend workshops that supplement your list of transferable skills. Workshops can add valuable skills to your resume. The Pathways to Success website includes a list of transferable skills and workshops that develop these skills, including programs on leadership,
Step 3: Communicate transferable skills and experiences by preparing a resume (which is different from CV!) that highlights your experience and transferable skills, then make updating it a monthly exercise!
- Focus on bulleting your previous and current experience. This will help you recognize how your graduate training supports the development of a diversity of skills beyond research and teaching. This Inside Higher Ed article provides great strategies on how to accomplish this.
- Become familiar with the lingo of an industry sector that you are interested in pursuing. Use that lingo to reframe your resume in way that is recognizable to people in that sector.
- Meet a graduate career advisor at Cornell Career Services. A graduate career advisor can help ensure that your application materials clearly communicate your transferrable skills and experiences.
- Explore LinkedIn profiles of professionals. LinkedIn provides immediate access to how people in fields and positions of interest to you (especially the experience section) present their transferable skills. This information can help generate ideas for your own application materials and LinkedIn profile.
- Review your resume and other materials: Make sure that your most relevant transferable skills are clearly highlighted in your resume and cover letter in a way that will be easily understood by hiring managers.
- Cornell Graduate School’s Pathways to Success professional development framework and resources
- Cornell Career Services – When to use a Resume and When to use a CV
- National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Career Readiness Competencies
- Are You Career Competent? Graduate students and postdocs should understand the importance of being able to communicate about their competencies to prospective employers during their job search
- Making Leadership and Service Count in the Job Search: Graduate students need to recognize the marketability and value of their unpaid work and anticipate how it could be attractive to a future employer
- Using Job Ads for Career Exploration: Reviewing advertisements of all sorts can help you identify appealing job types and sectors that you may never even have heard of
- Ph.D.s Do Have Transferable Skills, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3
- How Smart PhDs Use Their Transferable Skills To Get High-Paying Jobs
- LinkedIn 101: How To Craft A Stellar Profile
- The 31 Best LinkedIn Profile Tips for Job Seekers