How Transferable Skills Can Help Your Career
Whether you are seeking a new job or looking for a career change, the skills you have learned in one position can be used in another. It could be a similar job, or it could be something completely different. If the skills are generic enough (not company specific), they can be transported between roles, between companies, and even between industries.
What Are Transferable Skills?
The skills that can be transferred across industries and types of positions are called transferable skills. They are practical capabilities such as problem-solving and critical thinking that are necessary in many different lines of work.
How To Get Transferable Skills
The skills you learn in other ways, outside of the workplace, by volunteering, for example, can also be used to help qualify you for jobs that you might not have considered. These skills can be acquired over time or through higher education and experience, but what sets them apart is that they are adaptable and can be used in many various settings.
Transferable skills can be developed through military service, classwork, extracurricular activities like sports or clubs, internships, former jobs, travel, and study abroad experience, etc. Many skills can be established through non-conventional work or educational environments, so no experience is too distant.
Tip: You may be surprised at the computer skills you already have that can help you get hired.
Examples of Transferable Skills
Transferable skills can be used in a variety of ways. Take Margaret, for example. She spent years working as an administrator for a large insurance company. During the same period, she volunteered on a regular basis for a local animal rescue group. When a job coordinating volunteers became available at a nearby animal shelter, she was able to use the skills she had acquired volunteering to help her get the job.
In a similar case, another career changer spent a few hours a week volunteering for hospice. She did have a degree in social work but hadn’t used it because she was a stay-at-home mom raising a family. When she was ready to go back to work, a job opened up at hospice, and she was the first person interviewed. She was hired on the spot.
List of Transferable Skills
Here’s a list of transferable skills you can use to boost your job search.
- Attention to detail
- Computer skills
- Critical thinking
- Customer service
- Data analysis
- Decision making
- Goal setting
- Interpersonal skills
- Language skills
- Meeting deadlines
- Problem solving
- Project management
- Research and planning
- Relationship building
- Technical skills
- Time Management
Assess Your Transferable Skills
To assess your transferable skills, spend some time looking at what you have done. Make a list of the jobs you have had, the volunteering you have done, and the clubs and organizations you belong to. Have you helped out at school or church? How about summer jobs and activities?
If you worked at a retail store, you have customer service experience. Did you manage your household budget as a stay-at-home parent? You have finance and budgeting skills. Did you study abroad in France? You may speak more than one language and you are able to communicate cross-culturally.
Then consider what you have done in each of those roles. Many of these skills may be able to be used effectively in the workplace.
Showcase Your Skills
Everything you have accomplished, work related or not, has provided you with skills you can use in a new job or career. These can be incorporated into your resume and your cover letters as well. Just because you weren’t paid for what you did doesn’t mean it doesn’t qualify as work.
Tip: Here’s how to highlight your transferable skills in your cover letter and how to add a skills section to your resume.
It is important to be able to demonstrate and explain how you will be able to apply your skills to a new work environment, so be prepared to share examples with prospective employers. One of the best ways to do that is to share a story when you respond to interview questions.
Growing Your Skillset
As your career progresses, you will be able to grow your list of transferable skills. All your daily activities have the potential to give you a new skill or ability you will be able to use in the future. It’s important not to minimize what you have learned along the way.
Timothy, for example, told me that he didn’t have any skills. He’d worked in construction for years. However, he had spent a lot of spare time skiing and was able to use the knowledge he had acquired to get certified as a ski instructor. That certification led to a seasonal position at a ski resort and eventually led to a permanent career change.
We all have transferable skills, whether we think so or not. It’s simply a question of figuring out what they are, then using them to define what it is we want to do with the skills we have.