Grandma Goes to the Movies: Highlighting Transferable Skills with Legally Blonde

Sep 10, 2021 | Resumes

A title graphic featuring Let's Eat, Grandma's yellow pencil logo and an alternate version of the article's title: "Hiring Managers are People Too: Here's What They're Thinking"

Transferable skills are key to proving your capabilities when entering a new career path. In this article, one of our professional writers analyzes the classic Legally Blonde to show how Elle Woods showcased her transferable skills to get into Harvard Law School. .

By: David Hartley | Contributor for Let’s Eat, Grandma

Dear reader, the summer is coming to an end. Plan your final cookouts for Labor Day, and brace for the fall weather just around the corner. Time to pack away the bathing suits and get the kids ready for school.

Speaking of school…

Elle Woods on first day of law school, which she used transferable skills to get in to

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Did you think we would leave the summer without one final movie-resume tie-in?!

The 2001 comedy classic Legally Blonde still resonates today, as it shows that anyone can pull off a career change – even a fashion major can be a lawyer.

Granted, the film is a bit satirical in its portrayal of Harvard Law School. But one scene clicked with me as I re-watched the movie this summer:

In this scene, our protagonist, Elle Woods, is applying for Harvard Law with a video resume (something we generally don’t recommend). She doesn’t have the traditional skills and education that align with Harvard Law. But, she knows she has a skillset she believes will make her a successful law student.

But David, you may ask, how does Elle Woods’ strategy apply to my job search?

Well, it may affect you more than you think.

A Fortune.com article estimates 26% of workers have changed employers because of the pandemic. And while there haven’t been many official studies, initial projections appear to show more people have changed industries during 2020 than in prior years.

Transferable Skills: The Key for Career Changers

In fact, dear reader, I also changed industries during the pandemic. Changing industries can seem daunting, especially if the industries don’t perfectly align.

So, what do we do in this case? Just like Elle Woods, we use transferable skills to show how we can transition into the new industry.

Let’s use my personal work experience as an example. After graduating from Texas Tech University with a Theatre degree, I started tending bar in Chicago to pay the bills. I loved bartending. It was an interesting career, as I enjoyed meeting new people daily, making signature cocktails, and providing the highest level of service for my guests. But March 2020 came around, and I lost my job.

I chose to view the situation as a chance to shift careers to something that aligned with my passions: providing great customer service and writing.

I was fortunate enough to have that opportunity arise quite easily – but what if you’re trying to seek out a new career direction? How do you, dear reader, ensure your transferable skills shine through so you can land a job in that new industry?

Research the job you are applying for

A person researching jobs for opportunities for transferable skillsPhoto by Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash

Read the job description carefully and research the company to identify responsibilities of the position where you can apply your transferable skills. Photo by Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash

All job listings have keywords littered throughout. Some of them may sound technical, complicated, or industry-specific, but if you look closely, there’s a very good chance you have experience that aligns.

Collaboration? That’s simply working within a team. Coordination? That’s simply ensuring you (and your team) have the tools to complete your day-to-day job.

But what if the job listing contains technical keywords that you think don’t align with your background?

I have a client who used to be a product manager and was taking the plunge into a data science career. Two of the job responsibilities looked like this:

  • Analyze large amounts of information to discover trends and patterns
  • Undertake preprocessing of structured and unstructured data

My client was concerned because he had no experience analyzing data sets. However, during our consultation, we discovered he had experience in researching trends for product features. This included researching consumer trends.

Though he didn’t have the exact data science experience the job posting was referring to, we were able to leverage his experience into a bullet point showing he understands how to analyze large amounts of data:

  • Analyze consumer trends data to determine which specific product features are the most requested, leading to an 40% increase in sales across all products

Breaking down these keywords into a simpler context will help you align your resume to the job listing. Elle understood a few of the skills needed for a successful law career, and she demonstrated how she used them in her day-to-day role of sorority president.

As another example, when I applied for my writing job here Let’s Eat, Grandma, I noted their client-facing business model. On my resume, I leveraged my experience in restaurants serving guests to show I provided top-notch service to hundreds of customers (clients) a day. It looked like this:

  • Delivered top-quality customer service to hundreds of guests a day by treating every guest like a regular from greeting to check drop

My bullet point was still restaurant-focused, but I led with the keywords that were the most important.

Don’t exaggerate

It could be easy to start twisting and modifying words and bullet points to fit a job description. However, the best policy is always honesty when it comes to the content on your resume.

Rather than trying to bend your experiences exactly to the desired position, use keywords that highlight the great experience you had in your positions. Twisting the sentences into something that loses sight of its original meaning will confuse the reader about the great work you did.

In the clip, Elle didn’t hide that her experience with learning facts or leading initiatives was based on her sorority experience. She instead embraced them and presented them as transferable skills in her video resume (I cannot stress this enough, don’t do a video resume).

Highlight any recent coursework (if applicable)

a certificate, a great way to turn a transferable skill into tangible skill. Photo by Lewis Keegan on Unsplash

Certificates are a great way to give more weight to newer skills you’ve acquired. Photo by Lewis Keegan on Unsplash

A lot of my clients who are changing industries often take a proactive strategy during their job search. They take classes that start to align their skills with the industry they seek to be in.

If this applies to you, highlight that coursework on your resume as experience! I recently had a client who is transitioning to the data science industry. We used his recent coursework at Georgia Tech to highlight data science projects he worked on while attending school.

Those projects were rife with keywords and are sure to show that his experience is relevant! For example, he told me his thesis in his recent coursework was about developing novel statistics analysis, so we presented it like this:

Key Projects: Master’s Thesis project in Developing novel statistical analysis for examining latent variables

Showing the interesting projects you worked on gives you the chance to add relevant keywords to your resume.

Don’t get discouraged

Elle Woods got very lucky with her submission (and she scored very high on the LSAT). The chances are good that you won’t be as lucky as her right off the bat. I applied to over 10 writing jobs before I was granted my first interview, an interview for a job I didn’t ultimately receive.

Fortunately, not long after that Let’s Eat, Grandma reached out for an interview! Looking for a job is always a difficult journey, and switching industries can make that journey even tougher. The most important thing to remember as you continue your job search is to never get discouraged. That perfect opportunity is right around the corner!

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