10 April, 2019
Whatever plans you have for your career, and whatever unexpected turns you might take along the way, there are some skills that almost always come in handy. In fact I’ve gained a new appreciation for transferrable skills since applying to become the Babraham Institute’s equality and diversity manager.
After 10 years in the lab, applying for this role felt pretty scary because so much of the expertise I’d been cultivating over the past decade was no longer relevant. I basically discarded two thirds of my CV, and had to start coming up with examples of how the skills I had would make me a good candidate for a role I had little direct experience in. When you look at it through the right lens though, it’s amazing how many common skills that you pick up along the way are highly desirable and transferable to a whole bunch of different jobs.
If you are looking for your first job or thinking of changing careers or fields, applying for a role you don’t ‘have experience in’ can be daunting so I asked a range of managers (including my own) which transferable or soft skills they always look for and why.
Trevor Smith, Health & Safety Manager
Cheryl Smythe, Grants Manager and Chair of equality4success
Phill Hawkins, Group Leader
Hayley McCulloch, Public Engagement and Knowledge Exchange Manager
Paul Symonds, Deputy Head of Biological Support Unit
Sarah Ross, Tenure Track Group Leader
All these examples demonstrate that lack of direct experience is not necessarily a barrier to a new job and employers are often more interested in your potential to excel in a role. While I may no longer be using my dissection skills or experience troubleshooting Western blots, my years spent as a researcher are invaluable to my current role. Maintaining lab records, managing my work priorities and time, and communicating my results all honed skills I use every day.
Research shows that women especially are hesitant to apply for jobs they don’t have qualifications for, but not necessarily for the reasons you may suspect. If you’re feeling reluctant, take stock of all the other skills you possess outside of PCRs and signalling assays and you’ll find you are also a teacher, presenter, entrepreneur and who knows what else. Then, rewrite your CV and go apply for that job!
10 April 2019
By Elizabeth Wynn