Transferable/Translatable Skills

You’ve probably heard of transferable skills – those skills you develop in one job that easily transfer to another, for example, web design or customer service. But when it comes to your information skills, you want to think in terms of translatable skills.

Because the way we describe our areas of expertise are often so tied to librarianship (e.g., bibliographic instruction, information literacy, literature searching), non-librarians (more specifically, potential employers) may struggle to understand just how valuable we can be to them.

That’s why it’s important to be able to translate what we can do into language that will resonate with those potential employers. For example, here’s how each of these three terms might translate into in- demand job skills:

  • Bibliographic instruction = training or staff development
  • Information literacy = identifying fake news/information from real news/information
  • Literature searching = competitive intelligence, business intelligence, business research

Your job is to understand the language of your target industry or employer, then “map” or translate your LIS skills so that they align with the job’s requirements, in the specific language of that job, employer, or industry. That may take a bit of research, but here are three approaches to get you started:

  • Using your favorite job sites, look for jobs using any relevant titles or phrases you can think of to see what comes up. Check out the job descriptions for the language being used. For example, search on business researcher, competitive intelligence, information researcher, information specialist, etc. to see what jobs might relate to research skills. (Check out Alternative LIS Job Titles for 85 alternative LIS job names grouped by skill/interest area.)
  • Make the most of LinkedIn. Search the LinkedIn Jobs section using the potential keywords you’ve discovered to gather further information about how to describe your skills. You’ll also see what LinkedIn suggests as “related searches,” which offers additional terms to consider (bottom of left menu). Next, join multiple LinkedIn groups related to your area of interest so you’ll be able to see other members’ titles, employers, and profiles. Finally, search on your keywords or phrases (e.g., business researcher) using the Advanced Search > Keywords option to see the names of any LinkedIn members who have this phrase in their profiles and with whom you have a connection or shared group membership. Checking out their profile (and perhaps contacting them for an informational interview) will provide additional information.
  • Explore the membership directory of the professional association (SLA, ASIST, SAA, ALA) to which you belong through the iSchool. Look for members with LIS-alternative job titles or employers of interest, then reach out to the individual listed for additional information. How do they describe their skills? What words would their employer or hiring manager look for in a resume?

Being able to translate your LIS skills into the language of the non-library world can take a bit of work at the beginning, but the universe of opportunities it can open up to you make it well worth the effort.