Exploring Skill Portability

(9/17/2016 – These posts have been expanded in a book, Skill Portability: A Guide To Moving Skills Between Jobs)

OK my Progeeks, let’s talk skill portability.

We all know stuff.  We all learn stuff.  That’s part of what makes us the geeks we are – we can’t stop learning and doing things.  Be it part of our job or part of our bobbie, we’re good (or at least impressively mediocre) at a lot of things.

So when the job search comes up, when we’re talking to clients, when we’re considering a business, we need to consider our skills.  But when we face the transitions that are so common in businesses and careers we have to ask ourselves “what am I going to do with this skill?”

You know the situation:

  • You know some things but do they actually go on your resume?
  • You were great at something that’s no longer relevant to your job – does it matter?  Should you not talk about it?
  • You’ve changed companies or industries – is what you know even going to help you?
  • You want to port skills from hobbies into your career search.

In short – knowing how and when to port your skills over in careers is vitally important.  The fact I’m also talking about it is an indicator that I really don’t think it’s something discussed enough.

First of all, let’s talk why it’s important to work on skill portability, be it asking if you actually keep honing a skill, or simply if something goes on your resume.

Portability Saves Time: If you have relevant skills right now, ones you are growing or have gotten to a high level, you may not need to develop others from scratch.  Alternately, a skill you work to actively “port” into your career may help you develop others.

Portability Shows History: We don’t spring fully formed from a parent’s head like Minerva.  When we write off huge chunks of what we know on the job search we seem washed-out, lacking context, and shallow.  Also people kind of wonder what’s wrong with you.

Portability Prevents Wasting Time: If you work to port your skills over then you won’t spend time developing skills you don’t need, trying to communicate your abilities without noting the skill, etc.

Portability Gets You Thinking: I’ve found that evaluating your skills and how they can be used elsewhere really helps you get a sense of yourself and what you can do.

Portability Lets You Go Progeek: When you ask how you can port your skills, you can include your hobbies.

Hopefully you didn’t need too much convincing to think about skill portability.  But if you did, you’re welcome.

So what are the ways to port your skills?  The question is to ask which category they fit into, and I’ve got a handy mnemonic for them: DARE:

  • Direct
  • Advantageous
  • Representative
  • Enhancing

So next column let’s cover the Direct category . . .

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.fantopro.com/, nerd and geek culture at http://www.nerdcaliber.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.