9 Essential Skills to Develop for a Successful Career Transition
To help you navigate the complex process of career transition, we’ve gathered nine insightful tips from professionals like Managing Directors and HR Managers. From understanding the importance of networking for longevity to honing interpersonal skills, these experts share the specific skills that benefited them in their own career transitions.
- Keep Longevity with Networking
- Build Relationships with Active Listening
- Pivot with Cross-Functional Collaboration
- Embrace Structure and Planning
- Recognize and Leverage Existing Skills
- Rely on Grit
- Articulate Communication Skills
- Remember Your Resilience
- Hone Interpersonal Skills
Keep Longevity with Networking
Regardless of which career sector you choose to work in, networking is key to longevity in today’s digital age. Offline networking can be difficult, but online networking presents many ways to generate work connections.
Networking is the creation, maintenance, and use of the links and relationship building between individuals and organizations. Entrepreneurs use networks to build bridges across weak ties to broaden their contacts and acquire and exchange knowledge. The more you give in networking, the more you gain. It’s important to build relationships and not just numbers.
When the pandemic hit, the arts industry came to a halt. Instead of panicking, this was used as an opportunity to assess career options. Research was conducted and viable options which would have longevity were looked for. A post-graduate in Career Development was completed, and relationships and networks were grown. Utilizing these networks, a career as a coach for the creative industries was pursued.
Build Relationships with Active Listening
Active listening is one skill I believe every individual, regardless of industry, profession, or leadership role, should develop. Active listening involves not just hearing, but truly comprehending what others are saying, and then responding thoughtfully.
Active listening helped me build stronger relationships with colleagues and clients, which played a pivotal role in the success of my career transition. By paying close attention to others’ feedback and personal stories, I could tailor my approach and provide solutions that truly resonated with my peers and leaders.
Pivot with Cross-Functional Collaboration
One skill I consider pivotal during a career transition is the ability to work cross-functionally. Collaborating with various departments, such as engineering, finance, supply chain, C-suite executives, sales, and logistics, is an often-undervalued art. Yet, it stands as one of the most potent tools that one can acquire, applicable to any role in any company.
Being innovative within organizations while effectively utilizing cross-functional collaboration has significantly enriched my career. It allowed me to engage with colleagues across the organization for various purposes, including preparing for potential future roles and garnering endorsements from peers during talent discussions among leadership. This skill isn’t confined to the workplace; it also holds immense value in one’s personal life.
Embrace Structure and Planning
Stepping into a new leadership role may tempt immediate action, but it often proves costly. I recommend a structured 30-60-90 strategy for a smoother transition.
In your first 30 days, prioritize listening and avoid abrupt changes. Reassure your team that it’s “business as usual,” easing anxiety. Engage with your team, leaders, stakeholders, and customers. Be an open, inquisitive listener, and observe decision-making, work prioritization, and collaboration.
Over the next 30-60 days, craft your strategic plan. Identify opportunities, gaps, and challenges. Quietly test your plan’s viability for resonance, tangible results, and resilience.
In the final 30 days, showcase your plan. Share insights, address how the current state hinders progress, and explain how your changes will unlock potential. Link each change to its impact (e.g., faster customer delivery through restructuring).
Choose your delivery approach wisely. Town halls are effective later; start with direct discussions.
Recognize and Leverage Existing Skills
Many people hyper-focus on what they don’t know or skills that they don’t have, so they invest in courses, certifications, degrees, and professional development. However, especially if you are a mid-career professional with seven to ten plus years of experience looking to make a transition, it’s essential to slow down and take stock of the skills, abilities, and interests that you DO have. Doing this type of inner work will allow you to understand and communicate how your skills are transferable and help with positioning yourself as a high-value candidate.
Rely on Grit
Grit is defined as perseverance and passion to overcome an obstacle or achieve a goal, which is an important characteristic that will help someone pursue any potential challenges of a career pivot. This is necessary because it provides a mindset that this can and will be done.
As someone who has transitioned careers several times, this “not giving up” attitude has helped understand the why and how to be successful. Once it is clear why the career change should happen, the most powerful component is continuing down that path with grit.
Articulate Communication Skills
I can attest to the importance of brushing up on communication skills before transitioning careers.
Being able to articulate how their talents can transfer industries is at the heart of any career shift. It’s crucial to be prepared to convince hiring managers or clients that your skills trump industry-specific experience.
In my experience, I had worked in the recruiting industry—but with a focus on consulting. Launching my own firm and bringing in top clients required a set of skills I knew I had, but was so far unproven.
Sealing the deal in those early days required persuasive conversation, and brushing up on my eloquence and articulation in advance allowed me to sell my skills quickly and effectively when the time came.
Remember Your Resilience
A skill that individuals should develop when transitioning careers is resilience. The ability to bounce back from setbacks, stay motivated, and persevere through challenges is essential in navigating a career transition successfully.
In a career transition, developing resilience can be beneficial in several ways. It can allow one to stay focused and motivated despite facing rejection, setbacks, and uncertainty. Maintaining a positive attitude and continuing to move forward towards goals is possible.
Resilience can also help build a growth mindset and embrace a continuous-learning approach. By viewing challenges as opportunities for growth and learning, we can approach new situations with a sense of curiosity and enthusiasm. This can help in gaining new skills and knowledge relevant to the new career path.
Hone Interpersonal Skills
I think you should take the time to network and really hone your interpersonal skills, especially for communication.
Often, people can feel stifled in corporate environments and may lose the communication confidence they once had. So, if you have the opportunity to develop these skills during a career transition, then it’s one of the best times to do so!
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