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Blog Insight & Commentary

Low-Paying Job? These Transferable Skills Can Have Big Payoffs

Women usually hold 18 of the 25 lowest paying jobs in the U.S. Let’s fix that

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Rachel Cooper is a writer and creative based in Kansas City, Missouri. She's also cofounder of Read Poetry, an online platform and community dedicated to modern poetry and its role in today's society.

Most American women are not strangers to the gender pay gap or being underpaid for jobs that are crucial to their organization’s success. In fact, women usually hold 18 of the 25 lowest paying jobs in the United States. From agriculture to hairdressing, from nursing to childcare to education, women around the country are working taxing, long hours to provide crucial services—and are underpaid, which often leads to burnout and financial stress. 

The U.S. certainly has a long way to go in terms of paying fair wages, but in the meantime, if you are a woman in a low- or middle-paying job, chances are the important skills you’re developing now can transfer to a higher-paying job with better benefits.

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Customer service

When I was applying for entry-level jobs that required 5-plus years of experience as a recent college graduate, the best piece of advice I received was to highlight any job I’d held that required customer service skills. Even though I hadn’t worked in marketing for five years, I had held jobs as a waitress, barista, and an office assistant.

Customers and clients keep every company afloat, so if you can show that you know how to deal with difficult clients, that will speak volumes over someone who has no customer service experience.

Critical thinking

Critical thinking is a form of problem-solving. It may seem like a skill that most people have, but many hiring managers struggle to find employees who have good decision-making and problem-solving skills. If you often have to implement critical thinking in your current job, consider finding ways to highlight this on your resume.

Collaboration

Being able to work effectively with a team of people who have differences and opposing views can be tough. Chances are, whether you’re a teacher working with a classroom full of students or someone working one-on-one with clients, you’ve had to collaborate and work toward a common goal. Pinpointing those experiences in a job interview can go a long way.

Creativity

While creativity sounds pretty straight forward, it is a complex skill that fits into every skill on this list. From brainstorming a project or lesson plan to finding new ways to problem solve and communicate, creativity is a versatile trait that transfers to any career.

Leadership

Just because your title didn’t have “manager” in it doesn’t mean you haven’t displayed leadership qualities. While leadership includes “teaching, motivating, coaching, and supervising,” it also includes motivating a group toward a common goal. Maybe you implemented a new task force or practice in your organization. Maybe you led a workshop or encouraged your coworkers to do a task more efficiently. Whatever the case, find ways to highlight areas of leadership, even outside traditional management roles.

Read more: 10 High-Income, In-Demand Skills to Get a New Job (and Better Pay)

Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Suite

According to Burning Glass, eight in 10 jobs today require digital skills. Keep attendance in your classroom with Excel? Designed a flyer for a haircutting workshop at your salon? Put it on your resume. Although technology is part of our everyday lives, there is still a gap among employees with digital skills. Knowing Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Suite, among thousands of other programs and platforms like social media, will make you an essential asset to any company.

Written communication

Whether you’re writing reports, proposals, or an email to your boss, conveying your message and meaning in an effective way is key. Managers all over the country are looking for good writers and falling short. If you have great written communication, you’ve already got a leg up on your competition for a higher-paying job. 

Time management

Do you meet deadlines? Can you complete projects in the time allotted by your manager? Do you have an organized calendar? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, you can add time management to your arsenal of skills.

Data management

Collecting, managing, and reporting data transcends industries. Maybe you’ve recently done an agricultural study on plant growth or noticed that the kids at your daycare sleep better during naptime when played a certain type of music. Any information you collect that has context and requires action can be classified as data management, and these skills will transfer into any job.

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