Highlight transferable skills to switch careers with ease

By Amy Berg, Class of 2017 Career Advisor

By Amy Berg, Class of 2017 Career Advisor

It goes without saying that people use business school as a means to switch careers. Lawyers moving into marketing. Consultants pursuing banking. Engineers seeking PM roles at tech firms. Engineers transitioning into operations roles. Engineers switching to corporate strategy. Okay, those last three are just transitions I pursued last year.

I spent my pre-MBA career as a design engineer at John Deere. I entered business school with deep knowledge of farming, heavy manufacturing, how to work with unions, and how to remove green paint from clothing. How was I supposed to convince a recruiter at a tech company that he or she should spend any time considering me for a job?

I had to spend some time re-framing my previous work experience in order to highlight the transferable skills I had gained and why they made me a serious candidate for whichever role I was considering. When discussing PM roles with recruiters, I talked about my general passion for product development and how the time I spent in the field helped me develop empathy for the customer. For operations roles, I highlighted my experience on the factory floor, working cross-functionally on issues regarding efficiency and manufacturability. Regarding procurement roles, I emphasized that I had often worked with suppliers, negotiating engineering specs and completing projects to decrease cost. The point is, I pinpointed the general experiences that were useful for a variety of roles and I made sure I catered my message to each company.

Think about skills you possess that can take you to the next level, whatever the job.

Think about skills you possess that can take you to the next level, whatever the job.

This exercise of making a list of jobs that interest you and what skills you already have that translate to those roles does a couple of things. First, you start to convince yourself that you are a strong candidate. Confidence is key when you only have a few minutes to make an impression in a Meet-n-Greet or crop circle and when you eventually interview. Second, the exercise helps you start to frame how each role fits into your own career trajectory and what you are really hoping to get out of an internship. You may begin to form a broader view regarding what you might target in full-time recruiting.

So browse job postings and campus interviews in GTS, add the ones that catch your eye to your Hotlist, and skim the job descriptions. You likely already have a few of the critical skills companies are looking for. Then go on a long walk and think about how great you are. And when you start meeting with company representatives at recruiting events, you’ll be armed with insight and confidence that any recruiter will be sure to notice.


While Amy is skilled at all things green paint, she is a master at resume reviews and mock interviews! Make an appointment with a Career Advisor to help you craft your story.