Created By: NoirGrimoir on July 30, 2011 Last Edited By: NoirGrimoir on October 24, 2011

Transferable Job Skills

A character with skills in one mundane job find that said knowledge or skills are useful to their new exotic job.

Name Space:
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Page Type:
Trope
Do We Have This One??

Joe-Shmoe mathematician unexpectedly gets whisked to a magical universe then suddenly given the task of Saving the World. Luckily, the magic there has to do with numbers and everything he already knew from his old mundane job is useful and relevant, to the point that he's practically an Instant Expert! How convenient!

Basically this trope is when mundane skills are transferable to being proficient at something not so mundane. The skills don't necessarily have to do with the character's former job, and may actually be more like skills developed from hobbies or interests. And while the new 'job' is often magical, it doesn't necessarily have to be, just significantly different and exotic by comparison in-universe. This is often a way to explain why a particular Na´ve Newcomer to a world or job becomes so badass so quickly.

Related to Genre Savvy, as characters with knowledge of media, when finding themselves in situations similar to the media they know, often are able to dodge many of the problems their less savvy counterparts get into, precisely because they have this knowledge.

Compare Boxing Lessons for Superman, when an already badass, super-powered character with an exotic job description learns more mundane skills to be even better, and Wax On, Wax Off, when mundane activities or chores are used as a training means. Contrast Mundane Utility and Martial Arts and Crafts, when exotic job skills are used to do very mundane things.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Rock from Black Lagoon finds that a lot of his skills developed from being a pencil-pushing corporate desk-jockey help him navigate the gritty underworld politics in his new job as an illegal courier (*cough* pirate) to the criminal underworld of Roanapur.
  • Huey in Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian used to be a military pilot. His battle skills have saved his life more than once since inheriting the key to the Mystic Archive. Dalian was actually pretty impressed. His knowledge of literature has also helped him since his job is basically finding magic books and locking them away so they can't be misused.
  • Suou in the second season of Darker Than Black was really good at photography and as a result is a natural sniper.

Comics
  • In the Marvel Comics series U.S. 1, aliens recruit long haul truck drivers as starship because their experience with the open road is similar to space.

Fan Fiction

Film
  • The hero of The Sorcerer's Apprentice is a science student and upon being taught wizardry is able to accomplish a lot due to his knowledge of how science works.
  • In The Librarian, the main character uses all the knowledge he's gained from being a full-time student-for-life and obtaining basically every degree known to man to aid him in finding dangerous treasure and locking it in The Library. In fact his ridiculous knowledge pool is why he's recruited in the first place.

Literature
  • Wiz Zumwalt in Rick Cook's Wiz Biz books. A UNIX programmer finds himself in a fantasy universe and figures out to use a few very basic spells to assemble a magical programming language.
  • Inversion - Moist from the Discworld books is so successful at running the post office and later the bank because of skills he aquired during his earlier career as an international con artist.
  • In the backstory to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz the wizard uses his knowledge of simple stage magic and slight-of-hand to become the ruler of the country.
  • The Heroine of L. E. Modesitt Jr's The Soprano Sorceress is an opera singer, who gets transported to a world where magic is musical in nature.
  • Prelaw student Jonathan Thomas Meriweather has a spattering of skills and knowledge in politics, human relations and debating. He's also an amateur rock guitarist, which helps when he finds out that he's a Spellsinger (a wizard that can only cast magic through music).

Live-Action TV
  • Donna Noble got an impressive amount of use from her prior office temp experience when she traveled with the Doctor.
  • In the campy Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, when an old and powerful vampire asks what she can bring to the fight that other Slayers he bested could not, she proceeds to improvise a flamethrower out of a nearby torch and her hairspray, quipping, "My impeccable fashion sense."
  • When House went to cooking class he discovered that cooking is a lot like medicine.

Western Animation
  • Kim Possible goes both ways with it--she incorporates cheerleader acrobatics into her repertoire as a teenage super-spy, but it's also clear she excels at being a cheerleader because she already knew several styles of kung-fu before joining the squad.

Community Feedback Replies: 23
  • July 30, 2011
    RazorSmile
    • Wiz Zumwalt in Rick Cook's Wiz Biz books. A UNIX programmer finds himself in a fantasy universe and figures out to use a few very basic spells to assemble a magical programming language.
  • July 30, 2011
    Meeble
    This would fit on Occupation Tropes.
  • July 30, 2011
    TrustBen
    Donna Noble got an impressive amount of use from her prior office temp experience when she travelled with the Doctor.
  • July 31, 2011
    Ridicumouse
    Inversion - Moist from the Discworld books is so successful at running the post office and later the bank because of skills he aquired during his earlier career as an international con artist.
  • July 31, 2011
    Koveras
    I feel that Boxing Lessons For Superman is somehow related to this.
  • July 31, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    ^I think you're right.
  • July 31, 2011
    terrafox
    How would this fit with film plots like The Last Starfighter?
  • July 31, 2011
    dalek955
  • July 31, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    ^^Never seen that show, but from the summery, yeah seems like it.
  • July 31, 2011
    GoodGuyGreg
  • July 31, 2011
    randomsurfer
    In the backstory to The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz the wizard uses his knowledge of simple stage magic and slight-of-hand to become the ruler of the country.
  • August 1, 2011
    madelinemary
    In The Karate Kid. With the wax on wax off business.
  • August 1, 2011
    Jordan
    Suou in the second season of Darker Than Black was really good at photography and as a result is a natural sniper.
  • August 1, 2011
    arromdee
    This is related to I Know Kung Fu though not the same.
  • August 1, 2011
    Jonti
    Literature: The Heroine of L. E. Modesitt Jr's The Soprano Sorceress is an opera singer, who gets transported to a world where magic is musical in nature.
  • August 1, 2011
    foxley
    In the Marvel Comics series U.S. 1, aliens recruit long haul truck drivers as starship because their experience with the open road is similar to space.
  • August 1, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    @Madelinemary, actually I think that's more a case of using mundane chores or actions to aid in training, (for instance, they weren't a car washer and then suddenly decided they wanted to do martial arts, and were surprisingly good at it because of that previous experience in the action, Miyagi actually had the kid do that specifically) which is also a trope I believe, though I don't think anyone's made it yet. I know of a few other examples.
  • August 2, 2011
    foxley
    The 'mundane chores as a training aid' is Wax On Wax Off.
  • August 2, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    I'm thinking of turning this into a supertrope for all those compared tropes listed, where skills in one area converts to skills in another area.
  • August 3, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Cited in The Simpsons when Principal Skinner makes everyone go on "Go To Work With Your Parents Day" so he can leave for his Spring Break trip one day early.
    Tomorrow you will learn by doing and apply your knowledge of fractions and gym to real-world situations.
  • August 3, 2011
    cocoy0
    Not a job, but prelaw student Jonathan Thomas Meriweather has a spattering of skills and knowledge in politics, human relations and debating. He's also an amateur rock guitarist, which helps when he finds out that he's a [[Spellsinger]] (a wizard that can only cast magic through music).
  • August 3, 2011
    JRandomUser
    • Kim Possible goes both ways with it--she incorporates cheerleader acrobatics into her repertoire as a teenage super-spy, but it's also clear she excels at being a cheerleader because she already knew several styles of kung-fu before joining the squad.

    • In the campy Buffy The Vampire Slayer movie, when an old and powerful vampire asks what she can bring to the fight that other Slayers he bested could not, she proceeds to improvise a flamethrower out of a nearby torch and her hairspray, quipping, "My impeccable fashion sense."
  • August 6, 2011
    henke37
    • When House went to cooking class he discovered that cooking is a lot like medicine.
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