Communicating the Value of Soft Skills
I recently decided to re-enter the job market. After 15 years at a loan management software company, ending as the product manager and overseeing the customer service department, I wanted something different. My job had reached a point of cruise control.
After thinking for several months, I determined that I wanted to go in an entirely different direction with my career. Rather than relying on a skill set in banking and product that I had spent so long developing, I was going to turn to my original passion: writing.
When I graduated from college, the landscape was much different for writers. The only career paths that seemed to earn a living were journalism and publishing a book, and I wasn’t interested in either of those. I was “good at” banking, so I went that route, even though my degree was in English.
I’m at the point where I am heavily applying for jobs that include “solid writer” in the list of desired skills. However, I am finding that a whole new skillset has emerged that I don’t have. For many jobs in content writing, the list of skills often includes SEO, analytics, A/B testing, and more.
My husband took a new job last year, and he found one quickly. He is a software developer, so his resume is filled with hard skills like the programming languages he knows and the certifications he has.
My resume? Shows a completely different field of work than what I’m trying to pursue. Somehow I need to translate the skills I have into a completely different career path.
I have thought back to my first semester of college when I came home for Thanksgiving break. I visited the community bank where I had worked for several years as a teller. The bank EVP/owner was in the break room, and I proudly told him that I was going to be a “Finance major.”
He gave me a Look. “Don’t be a Finance major,” he responded, “Be a Liberal Arts major and show any potential employer that you can write, and you can speak.”
That stuck with me. And it was true: everything I know about banking and product, I learned. I could memorize banking regulations and underlying standards. I taught myself query writing and database principles.
While I have a portfolio of writing, I know that not every resume-reader will look at it. I have had to learn how to communicate that I have skills that can’t be easily taught. I’m innovative, articulate, and know how to make decisions. I can be diplomatic with customers and balance competing interests.
Those are hard things to sum up on a resume.
Putting that I’m “creative” on a job application sounds cliché. Somehow, I need to make myself stand out when I lack some of the “hard skills” required.
I’ve tried three things to make myself stand out. Maybe it is timing, or maybe these approaches are yielding success, but I’ve had more follow-up requests recently than I did when I first started putting myself out there.
1. Customize the Hell Out of the Cover Letter
I’ve been trying different tactics with the cover letter, and it goes far beyond changing the name of the company at the top. For each cover letter, I list out “you’re looking for someone who does x” and take it right from the job description. Then I reply with a tangible example of how I meet x. I pick and choose the skills that I think I best meet.
2. Admit that I Don’t Have All of the Skills
I don’t shy away from stating in my cover letter that I lack some of the potential employer’s preferred skills. I emphasize that I have skills that can’t easily be taught, and I can learn fast.
3. Include a Video
Cover letters and resumes only go so far. While I try to include as much personality as I can, I think there are some things that can’t easily be conveyed. I recorded a 1-minute video introducing myself using Loom and include the link on my cover letter.
As I embark on this new journey, the response has been overwhelming. People throughout my network have been cheering me on, and it has even led to some opportunities. I am fortunate to have so many people in my corner.
I don’t yet know what the future holds for me (and people who know me know that this part is driving me crazy). BUT — I have no doubt that I’ll find something that will be a good fit.