Have you ever considered getting extra help at work, but perhaps thought that the skills you require are too hyper-specific?

This is something we hear a lot. “I could do with an assistant, but I’m not sure that they’d be able to do X that I really need done.” Or “I think I might really need specialist help, but I’m not too sure how to find what I need.”

From our experience, you might be surprised. We often find that tasks people think will be too specific are a good match for someone with highly transferable skills.

In short, you might be able to find a good match sooner. Here’s why:

Hyper-specific vs. transferable skills

First, what do we mean by hyper-specific and transferable skills? We define transferable skills as the skills, talents, or abilities that can be used in many different jobs or for several different tasks.

Transferable skills may be hard or soft skills. Hard skills are those which are teachable and can be easy to measure or quantify. For example, if someone knows how to conduct V lookups in Excel, that’s a hard skill that you can measure or prove (and it happens to be a transferable skill!).

Soft skills are a bit harder to measure or quantify. Those are the skills that “just are” in a person, although they can be developed over time or with experience. For example, consider the interpersonal skills of someone in their first customer service role. They may be able to do the job, but sometimes shy with customers. On the other hand, someone with years of customer service experience is often more seasoned and confident. It’s not something you can really measure, but you can describe the difference. Customer service or interpersonal skills are examples of “soft” transferable skills.

What about hyper-specific skills? These tend to be focused on a narrow niche or specific type of job. For example, an Airbus A-380 pilot will have skills and specific knowledge for the A-380 aircraft. While their piloting skills and knowledge of aviation principles and practices are transferable to other pilot roles, they’re not skills that are more universally transferable.

In an office environment, something like very specific knowledge of a software program or a working knowledge of a set of laws, principles, or best practices that only serves your niche might be examples of hyper-specific skills. However, you could argue that these can be developed through transferable skills. How software works is an example - these days, the basic functionality is often very similar. Perhaps you can seek out basic “computer literacy” as a transferable skill.

Sometimes the skill you need in your business isn’t as specific as you might think…CLICK TO TWEET

On-the-job training

One thing to consider is whether you have time to provide on-the-job training. You might be convinced that you really need a hyper-specific skill, but sometimes it’s not far out of the wheelhouse of someone like an executive assistant, if only they receive some training on the job.

If you have time to train for the skill, you can open up your pool of potential candidates by looking at those with relevant transferable skills. Maybe they don’t already know your specific requirements, but they do have a solid foundation in skills that are related.

It all depends upon the type of hire you make. For example, you can expect that an experienced executive assistant comes with a range of honed, professional skills, They are typically fast learners and have a broad range of experience behind them. It often doesn’t take long at all to get someone like this up-to-speed.

Consider the local talent pool

Another important consideration when you’re hiring is the pool of talent that is available to you. Sometimes the skills you need just aren’t available locally, or, they’re in such high demand that the market to snap up those people is highly competitive.

If you are located in a small town, often the needs of the businesses there can outpace the supply of talent available. Bigger-city businesses can have a similar, but opposite issue where talent is in high demand from a larger number of competing businesses. It can become quite difficult to hire for something you believe to be a hyper-specific need.

Sometimes focusing too narrowly can make your hiring task too difficult. This is where we’d always ask, do I really need to find someone who already has that specific skill? Would “most of the way there” along with some on-the-job training result in getting a good match? Additionally, do you really need to stick with hiring someone locally, or can you look further afield?

In today’s environment of digital technology enabling remote-based work, it can present some challenges to businesses, but also some amazing opportunities. The executive assistant role along with other types of roles could be performed virtually, opening up your field of talent.

This is important for any business to consider, especially if you’re having difficulties finding help. Ask yourself, are we looking too narrowly? Is it possible for the role to be done virtually by someone who has good skills and experience? There are actually very few roles these days that can’t be performed remotely, so it should be a key consideration.

How an executive assistant can help

Obviously, our specialty at Worxbee is executive assistants and there are great reasons for that. An EA is a highly skilled professional with valuable transferable skills and the ability to work well independently. For almost any help you need in your business, we can find an executive assistant with the relevant skills and experience.

And for those hyper-specific needs? You might be surprised - those often aren’t a huge stretch for someone with an EA skillset. They might need some on-the-job training, or they might be able to research and learn on their own.

How can you use an EA’s help in a specialized industry? As an example, you can have the EA research three industry articles every morning and summarize them. This helps to keep you up-to-date while at the same time, helping the EA to develop deeper knowledge of the specific industry. It’s not impossible to get that hyper-specific knowledge, even in tight job markets. You just may need to think laterally about how to develop it!

Final thoughts

If you’re having challenges finding the help you need, it may be a chance to evaluate and figure out which skills are really necessary. Sometimes the need you have isn’t as hyper-specific as you might think, or otherwise, it could be resolved with some on-the-job training or self-learning.

In this age of competitive markets for talent, you can gain an edge when you widen your potential pool of talent so that you’re prepared to snap up those with the best transferable skills.

Look at related skills and roles such as the executive assistant, where being multi-talented is a must. You’ll often find that your hyper-specific need can be taken care of by an EA, who can become an expert over time.

Could you use a fantastic executive assistant in your business? Talk to us at Worxbee today - we can pair you up with a great match who can help to serve your needs.