How To Translate Your Skills Into a Successful Career Switch

Updated: September 9, 2018

Have you ever considered switching careers? I have, several times, from being an engineer to a freelance software developer to finally, an entrepreneur and investor.

Each shift took a lot of courage and planning. And along the way, I’ve made many mistakes which took me very close to quitting and going back to my previous career.

But persistence always won over me. And with enough focus, patience and hard work – I was able to successfully jump ship.

Today, I’d like to share this guest post on how you can also make that big leap forward in your career by leveraging on your skills, talents, knowledge, and resources.

When I realized that my contract as an instructor of freshman composition at a large university would not be renewed last spring, I found myself struggling to come up with another teaching opportunity on short notice.

By spring, many of the university-level teaching jobs were already filled, and there were no openings at private high schools in the area. I could adjunct at community college, but my salary would essentially be halved.

This was an option I did not want to consider. So I risked a lengthy wait until more full time teaching jobs came open.

In the meantime, I decided to try freelance writing to make a little cash on the side, and soon I had parlayed a few part time gigs into a full time position on a contract to contract basis. The job isn’t as stable as I would have liked; however it’s more stable than teaching on yearly contracts as I was doing earlier, oddly enough.

So how did I make the career switch? Here are the steps I took.

Identify Skills

Before I could even start looking for work, I had to first review all the skills I used as a composition teacher. I called this a ‘professional review,’ though really all I did was brainstorm as many skills I could think of that I had developed as a teacher, and then I tried to write them out in resume language, using action verbs.

I was good, for example, at all kinds of writing. After all, I had to be in order to teach composition. This was my most valuable skill. The others included my ability to organize my projects and responsibilities, and my ability to communicate well with my students.

Target New Jobs to Apply for

This step was pretty easy for me, though it could be much harder to focus on a new career for someone else. Because writing was my main skill, I looked for jobs that seemed most applicable to this skill.

I found many jobs in communications and as a freelance writer. I don’t have a degree in communications, so I decided to try freelance writing.

Translate Skills

Once I had made my list of skills and settled on freelance writer, I had to figure out how my teaching skills could translate to a job as a freelance writer. As a teacher of composition, I was familiar with all of the ‘way’s and ‘hows’ of writing.

I knew that audience was important, and I knew that writing for a purpose was important. Because I had to teach students about these concepts and work with them through many different kinds of writing tasks, I realized I could apply my own understanding of these tasks to figuring out what a client wanted in a freelance project.

I essentially applied my own teaching of these skills to teaching myself how to interact with prospective clients and market myself as an experienced writer.

Commit to the New Career

Once I had figured out how I could apply my skills to a new career context, I then had to fully commit to seeking out that career. I had gotten one or two good projects relatively easy, so I used these to create a writing portfolio to use when I bid on future jobs. I also explained how my background as a writing teacher gave me an added strength as a freelancer.

Finally, my great organization as a teacher helped me to keep me focused and organized as I applied to the countless freelance jobs out there.

This guest post is contributed by Olivia Coleman, who writes on the topics of online colleges and universities

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  1. Yes, I had switched careers, many times,too. In some cases, by choice but in some cases due to necessity. I rose and fall.I think I have that uncaany attitude of not hanging on too long. Five years is often enough for me. After five years or so, I’m forced to move or I just feel I should move. I’m getting older now and after 5 years in a university teaching job, I’m a Foreign expert here in China at the moment, I’m contemplating to go back to the Philippines FOR GOOD.

    Yeah, that’s my plan. I want to go back to business. Been there before. People said that I’ve got a “Midas touch” when it comes to business. But I should say that what I HAD was just a “beginner’s luck”. I was successful in two of those businessess, shifted to the transportation business and there, I bombed!. I lost almost everything, reason why i was forced to get a job’s where i am now.

    As usual, with a beginner’s luck and the ability. I’m pretty successful in this teaching job…basing on the criteria in the EFL/ESL industry. But, I need to go home for good now. I’ve saved an amount substantial to open a small business. But as to what? I’m at a lost. I was burned and I could feel that I still have the feeling.

    I need advice. Please help. tHANKS.

  2. Hi!
    I switched careers few times, usually because getting bored with what I was doing and due to no perspectives of changing that if I was to stay. I started as a teacher, then I switched to data entry job (same salary for that) and giving myself time to get ready for software tester position.
    I did that for some time and even if it had better salary, it was not mentally rewarding, so I quit and started in personal development area.
    It combines my scouting instructor, volunteer and a teacher experience with internal need of helping people and even if it’s not (yet!) so much financially rewarding – I still find it great. It’s something that I would like to be doing in some forms for the rest of my life 😉

  3. @tsinita @Andrzej It’s one way to get burned out and its another to keep your dreams alive! Just be good to yourself once more and see beyond your vision. If it’s about choosing the right business, there are plenty of options out there. I don’t think there is a business specially designed for you and me. We sometime suit our self-centered wishes but not looking at the whole process of enjoying the business as if no extra toil is needed. We pay forward. Our ideals and the spirit of persistence and resilience intact. Career switch could have many interpretations. Some may call it “changing horses on midstream” and some otherwise. You only want to be in command and with the foreknowledge that risk is eminent, still nothing can stop you to explore and conquer every road blocks of the market. Fact is, it’s always been a learning experience on every turn of your career. Let me invite you to consider MLM. It’s one “passive” source of income as Fitz had preached on some of his articles here. I myself is involved in this. You see I also have a career story tell. You can safely say that i am Civil Engineer (just like Fitz) turned Entrepreneur slash Website Developer slash Marketer slash Networker / Graphic artist/ IT lecturer/ Domain Hosting reseller/ Online Free ads portal Admin/ SEO consultant / Blogger in a capsule. Whew! So if you’re interested about MLM just text me @0999.795.7530 or find me by mention in twitter @halohalobiz

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  5. I have made several switch in careers too. From my undergrad degree of Biology, I first worked at a call center doing technical support then tried medical transcription then moved on to become an executive assistant. As an EA, my skills were recognized and I was promoted to be a business development specialist then after some time promoted to be a marketing manager. Now, I am a financial advisor. So many shifts in just 4 years of working! I am thinking of another shift again but this time I am being more strategic and combining all my learning experiences from the past. My goal is to finally quit the corporate world and work for myself in 5 years or less from now.

    This site has been most helpful in that journey and reading other people’s stories makes me believe I am not alone in my situation.

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