Alternative Careers: Transferable skills make the move

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Transferable Skills

Other people have trained for “your” job

Having identified the job that you want, do not be discouraged to find that other people have trained for it. You can explain and enhance your value to an employer by showing what you know about the job, the business, and the industry, and by putting your legal skills in context for non-lawyers.

One benefit for lawyers seeking non-legal positions is that they are often posted with a lengthy job description. Unlike 2nd year associate sought for busy family law practice, job descriptions for non-lawyers contain specific information and smart candidates use every word in a job description in their resumes and cover letters.

Helpful job description language

Some of the language you might find: advising/counseling, analyzing (events, data, people,risk), anticipating/estimating, applying theory, appraising, assessing, compiling/gathering (information),comprehending technical material, Conceptualizing, Connecting, Coordinating/arranging (events), delegating, designing, editing, evaluating, examining, exercising good judgment, explaining, group facilitating, handling complaints, imagining, interviewing (to obtain information), listening, mediating, meeting deadlines, motivating others, negotiation, organizing/coordinating, persuading/promoting/selling, planning/scheduling, predicting/forecasting, prioritizing, programming, public speaking, resolving conflicts, reviewing, supervising, teaching/training, theorizing, translating, working effectively and calmly under pressure, and writing.


To connect your skills to job description language, identify:

People with whom you interact: Who are they and what are the relationships based on?;
Institutions with which you work: Who are your contacts and what do you do with and for them?
Tasks you do: What do you actually do? What documents do you create? What meetings do you attend or conduct?
Problems you solve: What kind of problems do you solve? What skills do you use to solve them?


Look carefully at the work that you do and to translate it into language that will be understandable to non-lawyers and that will relate to the job descriptions for your target positions.



For example, a busy litigator works with individuals, clients, co-workers, co-counsel, opposing counsel, court personnel, other professionals (medical, criminal, insurance agents, bankers, etc.). She interacts with institutions including courts, banks, and insurance companies, federal, state and local regulatory agencies. For any of these she identifies problems by creating a complete narrative drawn from a variety of sources; creates strategic and practical solutions; organizes large amounts of information; serves as project manager; participates as an effective team member; provides effective oral and written communication lawyers and non-lawyers; acts independently; deals with unexpected problems; and uses technology effectively and efficiently.

To recap, a search for an alternative career has five parts: self-assessment, research, purposeful and serendipitous networking, patience, and an articulated set of transferable skills.

You are not alone and you are not the first person to consider changing careers.

Get started and good luck!

About susangainen

Whimsical Wildlife Documentarian. Abstract Painter. Writer. Teacher. Explorer.
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