On the move: Transferrable skills, flexibility can boost employment options

Houston Chronicle

Many people in the Houston area seem to be holding their breath when in comes to the news of lower oil prices and the potential for more layoff announcements. While this may cause a degree of uncertainty among the local workforce, the truth is that companies downsize for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons might be external to the organization, such as the price of oil, but other factors might be entirely internal to the organization.

Nonetheless, employees should always be prepared in case the unthinkable should happen and they find themselves suddenly back in the job market.

For that reason, it is especially important for employees to maintain and continually improve their skillsets, and evaluate those that might easily transfer into other positions, companies and industries. At the same time, having a flexible approach can open up the widest range of job opportunities and career options.

Keith Wolf is managing director of Murray Resources, a Houston-based recruiting and staffing firm. He said that there are several things that employees can be doing right now to increase their value within their current organization, as well as key strategies that job seekers can implement for attracting new opportunities.

“I like to advise folks to look at job descriptions, either for the job that they want or for a lateral move,” Wolf said. “I tell them to look at the types of things that the company is looking for in a particular role and assess where their gaps are.”

He added that it is usually much easier for people who are employed to evaluate the areas where their skills might be lacking, so that they can make improvements. In contrast, job seekers might be more intimidated and frustrated when reading job descriptions and the feeling that they are unqualified for certain positions.

According to Wolf, employees should also think about the people they are working with and how important those relationships can be now and in the future.

As such, he said that employees should never burn bridges, because one never knows who his or her next boss may be, or who might be willing to recommend them for a new position.

Professional references are also critical for job seekers, because employers want to verify the accuracy of the information on candidate resumes. That is why it is essential for employees to leave a company on the best possible terms, regardless of the reason for their departure. In fact, Wolf said that even though giving a two-week notice may be customary, that offering more time is a nice gesture.

LinkedIn profiles are also something that Wolf said are important, whether someone is looking for a new job or not.

“I advise folks to always keep their network open, and be active on LinkedIn, because they never know when an opportunity may come their way, even if they aren’t looking for it,” said Wolf. “I tell them to get known within their industry, so that if something does fall through, that there will be other folks they know of outside of their immediate circle who might be able to help them.”

For people who are looking for jobs, Wolf said that having flexibility in terms of job location could also open up a broader spectrum of possibilities. Companies often look outside of the local talent pool to fill various positions, which means that being offered a job may also mean relocating for that job.

In general, Wolf said that job seekers should consider just how flexible they are willing to be in their job search. They need to ask themselves questions such as whether they would consider a different or lesser position in order to stay within the same industry, or whether they would be willing to have a similar position in a different industry, or whether they would accept a lower salary, and whether relocation is a viable option.

“We let candidates know that the more flexible they can be in their search, that the more opportunities they’re going to have access to,” Wolf said.

In talking about transferrable skills, Wolf said that the challenge for many job seekers often lies in being able to effectively market that skillset to a potential employer.

That is the value that recruitment firms like Murray Resources bring to the process.

“That’s not only the value that we bring to the candidate, but it is the value that we bring to the employers, so that they don’t pass on great candidates,” Wolf said.