When it comes to our careers, it’s not always easy to know what the future is going to hold. We have this odd tendency today to expect teenagers to know exactly what they want out of life and direct their academic journeys toward a specific career. Reality is rarely that simple. It’s common to consider new paths at different times of life, and want to explore entirely new industries. 

No matter where your goals lie, your skill set is the key to both getting there and thriving. The collection of abilities can make you a more attractive candidate for prospective employers. Additionally, how you develop your skills can ensure you are in line for promotions and opportunities. That said, it’s not always easy to know how to approach gaining the right set of abilities. 

Let’s take a closer look at the process of building your skillset for a new industry. How do you identify the best areas of focus? What are some of the common traits that companies look for in employees?   

Narrowing the Path

So many of us have an inkling that we want to set off on a new career path, yet have no idea how to make it work. There’s a kind of paralysis that can happen, which comes from uncertainty, and occasionally a fear of failure. One useful tactic is narrowing your options to identify the first steps of your route forward. 

  • Understand Your Values. It helps to understand what is important to you in a career. Do you enjoy being part of a close-knit team? Do you want to make a difference in your community or to the planet? Do you want a new career that allowed you to be flexible and spend time with your family?  
  • Identify Your Strengths. Though you’ll likely have to build a specific skill set, there are still going to be abilities and tasks that you’re particularly suited to. Make a note of the types of roles that you tend to excel in, and what results they can be applied toward. Your expertise in managing and hiring retail employees could just as effectively be applied toward a career as a film production assistant. Both positions require the same talent for organizing schedules and coordinating personnel, and the skills to communicate effectively with people from varying backgrounds. 
  • Gain Inspiration. Though it can be tempting to just examine the qualifications and job titles, it can be just as important to look to people as you narrow down your choices. Are there industry leaders, influencers, or other figures of inspiration that exhibit your goals and desires? Looking at their path can provide you with a blueprint.        

Once you’ve identified a career, it’s time to start identifying and building the skill set you’ll need to progress. 

Technical Abilities

Thankfully, understanding the technical demands of a position is relatively simple to achieve. Whether you’re looking at a specific vacancy advertisement or a breakdown of standardized industry requirements, these technical skills are usually front and center. However, it’s equally important to understand that we’re living at a time in which technology is changing rapidly and that the technical needs of positions will develop alongside this. As a result, it’s important to also keep an eye on which advances are likely to change your chosen industry.     

This can be a serious issue in technical fields, particularly in the manufacturing sector. Advances in machinery are so frequent that these leaps leave the human workers tasked with their operation and optimization lagging behind. Businesses in these sectors have to start rethinking how they select equipment and approach hiring. If you’re looking to shift careers to this area, it’s equally important that you take steps to prepare yourself against this skills deficit. Look into prospective employers and examine whether they’ve built relationships with educators and instructors in order to keep staff skills relevant. Take self-driven courses on emerging technologies that are becoming key to manufacturing such as artificial intelligence, and data analysis. Demonstrate that you’re keen to diversify your skillset to help futureproof your effectiveness in the industry. 

Creating an agile set of technical skills can also be bolstered by a commitment to personal projects. If you’re looking to become engaged in coding, web development, or the gaming industry it’s not always necessary to gain a formal education. There are plenty of low-cost online education courses and YouTube tutorials, which can be supplemented by self-driven schemes. Coding camps have also become a popular alternative source of education. It has become common for those aiming to shift their career to cybersecurity to engage with penetration testing and “bug bounty” hunting. This approach provides practical technical experiences, alongside opportunities to learn and grow in ways that are relevant to current tech and needs.   

Soft Skills

In identifying career-specific traits, things can get a little tricky with soft skills. By definition, they’re more subjective. They include abilities such as leadership styles and communication and can vary from business to business. A collection of soft skills often denotes the level of emotional intelligence you can bring to the position, and this is becoming increasingly important across all industries.  

To identify the specific soft skills required for your target career, it’s useful to consider what personal traits match well with the tasks of the job. As an example, careers in social work require staff to be able to understand the challenges of their clients and connect them to the right resources. This tells us that active listening skills are a must, as are critical thinking and problem-solving. It can also be useful to talk to people who are already in the field — they can give you insights into what aspects of their personality and approach they utilize most frequently. 

Developing a collection of soft skills for a career in a new industry can be no less challenging than gaining technical expertise. Those of us who are more inclined toward solitude can find it a wrench to forge interpersonal skills. But it is certainly achievable. In your current job, look for opportunities to lead projects, volunteer for group opportunities. In your personal time, volunteering for charitable projects can help give you experiences in working as a team, connecting with more diverse cultures, and developing your empathy.


Heading out to discover a new career is often a challenge in itself. However, if you prepare by gaining a deeper understanding of the industry, and forging the combination of soft and technical skills that are most desirable, you can start on the right foot. It’s also just as important to keep looking ahead, and developing these skills to stay agile and relevant.

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