When changing careers, lack of experience can make breaking into a new field hard. However, there’s a way to get around this problem. Whether you plan to enter your dream career at entry level or are aiming for more of a mid-level position, having some highly useful skills that others in your chosen field lack will make your CV stand out and give you a huge edge.
Having these skills also provides the perfect opportunity to break into a new and/or very competitive career field in a more cunning way – through the back door. Use one of these top skills to secure a less competitive job in your dream industry, and once you’re in there, you can focus on getting moved to the role you want. How? By using that first job to establish a relationship with the people in charge, demonstrate how great an asset you are and, most importantly, get first dibs on internal jobs you’d never hear about if you weren’t already in the industry (read how ex-dancer and law graduate Alex Bassingham used this exact strategy to snag a job as a BBC TV journalist even though she had no journalism experience or qualifications).
So are you ready to make yourself ridiculously employable? Here are the top four practical skills that employers are obsessed with right now and how you can get them.
Having a language up your sleeve is one of cleverest things a career changer can do. Firstly, while job applicants are often pretty brazen about claiming to have skills that are hard to test during an interview (think leadership and problem solving etc.) when it comes to languages, people tend to be less willing to lie about this for fear of being put on the spot and outed during an interview. This means that the competition for jobs that require language skills tends to be significantly less than others, which in turns improves your chances of making it to interview stage, even if you’re from a completely different job field.
If you’re thinking that it takes years to become fluent in another language – years you don’t have to spare – don’t panic. Fluency is not the goal here. When learning a language to boost your employability, a short six-week crash course that’s designed to give you the basics needed to hold a conversation will suffice.
Wondering which language to pick? French, German, Mandarin and Spanish are the most desirable right now according to data analysts Statistica.
If you’re sold on the idea of learning a new language, try:
- Babble – A do it yourself language app that offers European languages.
- Berlitz – An array of language courses taught in a class setting in London.
- Cactus – UK-wide evening language courses, which are taught in person.
- Language trainers – Another provider of UK-wide in-person language courses.
Social media account management
Everything is digital these days, which means that regardless of the industry you’ve got your eyes on, all businesses are aware of the importance of having a strong online presence. But with heavy hitters like Facebook and Instagram constantly changing their algorithms and increasingly become ‘pay to play’ platforms, anyone who knows how to help a business maximise it’s social media reach (especially without having to resort to adverts) is gold dust and companies know this.
If you’re already pretty good at social media and you’ve got an impressive following on Instagram or Twitter to prove it, you’re ahead of the game. Make sure the accounts are suitable for the eyes of your future employer and then mention them in the skills section of your CV and again in your cover letter.
Emphasise how you grew those accounts and over what period of time.
If your accounts aren’t so hot, there are loads of cheap online courses for getting your social media management skills up to scratch. But remember to put what you learn into practice in your own accounts because the first thing an employer is going to check after reading how awesome you are at social media management is the state of your accounts.
Ready to become a social media maven? Try:
- Hootsuite Academy Social Marketing Training – a free 6-week course for those at beginner to intermediate level. It covers everything from setting up accounts to growing them, marketing and effectively using ads.
- Udemy’s Complete Digital Marketing 12 in 1 Course – an online course that covers every platform, Google analytics and even teaches you about SEO strategies that work.
- Facebook Blueprint – this free online course by Facebook is for you if you want to master Facebook marketing and advertising.
- The Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Social Media Strategy course – this one-day course is pricey at £625, but it’s one to do if you’re keen to enter an industry that likes to see certificates from accredited organisations as proof of your skills.
Everyone is catching on to the fact that software programming can transform businesses in all sectors, from health to television and publishing. And it’s not just computer programmers that need this skill. Basic coding skills mean that you’ll be able to offer employers expertise in things they need to boost their business – that’s things like website design, creation and management; social media planning; and app development and management.
So where can you go to pick up coding skills in record time? Try:
- Codeacademy – it offers free online coding courses for complete beginners.
- 23 Code Street – a London-based coding school for women. It offers a 12-week part-time course.
- Codebar – free UK-wide coding workshops for people who are underrepresented in tech – women, LGBT, etc.
- W3Schools – a free online coding resource for self-starters who are happy to learn through reading.
It goes without saying that if your dream career is journalism, script writing or any other field that involves the creation of written content, then having sharp copywriting skills is essential. But for those interested in non-writing roles, being good with the written word can still make you a strong asset to any employer. Why? Because being able to craft grammatically correct, entertaining and succinct copy is vital in many departments, from PR (think writing press releases), marketing (writing marketing materials) and social media (writing engaging posts, blogging on the company’s website etc.) to writing legal and financial department reports.
It’s not a hot new skill like coding, but it’s one that has stood the test of time for good reason. And until humans stop communicating with words, it’s unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon.
Great! Here’s where you can sharpen your copywriting skills:
- The Writer’s Bureau – an online copywriting course that teaches you all the different types of copywriting e.g. writing for the internet versus writing press releases. You also get a dedicated tutor to mark your assignments.
- The Blackford Centre for Copywriting – an online course, dubbed ‘the world’s number one copywriting course’. You can do this at home, in your own time and you gain a level 4 copywriting diploma at the end.
- College of Media and Publishing – this online course is run through the recruitment site Reed and teaches students how to write for a variety of platforms. And like the Blackford Centre’s course, you’ll also get a level 4 diploma when you complete it.
Stay in Touch
Get weekly career advice, tips and resources direct to your inbox. You’ll also be the first to find out about new job opportunities for career changers in the UK.