21 July, 2021
By Mike Simpson
If you’re getting ready to launch a job search, there’s a good chance you’ve tripped across information about transferable skills. Transferable skills are often touted as the key to a successful career change and getting your first job, particularly if you don’t have much direct experience.
While that’s all true, transferable skills are valuable no matter where your career takes you. In many ways, they are the secret sauce to success, helping you shift your professional direction – both slightly and dramatically – whenever the need arises.
But what are transferable skills? How do you know if you have them? Are there any great transferable skills examples that can serve as a guide? If you’re asking yourself questions like that, you’re in luck. We’re going to cover all of that and more.
What Are Transferable Skills?
Alright, before we take a close look at transferable skills examples, let’s answer an important question: what are transferable skills?
To answer that, it’s best to start with the basics. What is the transferable skills definition? Well, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, transferable skills are “skills used in one job or career that can also be used in another.” That’s pretty spot-on, really.
Any skill that you can apply to multiple different jobs and fields is transferable. That’s also why these capabilities are called “portable skills” in some circles. You can take them with you wherever you go and make use of them once you get where you’re headed.
In many cases, soft skills are the clearest example of transferable skills. They are a set of traits that help you excel in the workplace, not just when doing a particular activity.
However, that doesn’t mean hard skills aren’t portable, too. Now, hard skills usually aren’t quite as versatile as soft skills. Various kinds of technical expertise are only relevant in specific niches.
But that doesn’t mean a whole slew of jobs don’t require similar kinds of technical knowledge or experience with certain tools. That makes those hard skills transferable, though in a more limited capacity.
In the end, any skill that you can apply in more than one job can be considered portable. Some may be more versatile than others, as certain ones are only transferable within a specific context. But some are applicable to nearly any kind of role, making them potent additions to your arsenal of capabilities.
How Are Transferable Skills Relevant to a Job Search?
Saying that transferable skills are incredibly relevant to your career feels like a massive understatement. Those capabilities are little job search powerhouse. Not only can they help you identify opportunities, but they can make you a stronger candidate for most positions you may want to land.
On the job search side of the equation, let’s focus on a few commonly-held transferable skills: research, communication, and organization. Those can all help you throughout the hiring process. They make it easier to identify job ads that meet your needs, track your applications, communicate with hiring managers, and more.
And that’s just three skills that fall into that “portable” category. Many others can also boost your job search.
Once you land a job, those same skills can support your success on the job. Using the example skills above, they help you with problem-solving, time management, and collaboration. All of that is crucial in essentially any role.
Really, that just scratches the surface of how transferable skills make a difference. Plus, most of these are in-demand capabilities that hiring managers want to find in candidates. Bonus!
In some cases, hiring managers will specifically ask for skills that qualify as highly portable. Problem-solving, for instance, is something you may learn at any point in your career, and it’s almost universally valued by employers. Attention to detail is another biggie, as well as accountability, flexibility, and agility.
When hiring managers choose candidates, they aren’t just looking for relevant technical knowledge. Yes, that’s part of the equation, but only a portion.
Today, an increasing number of companies hire for potential. If you have the right transferable soft skills, they may be willing to teach you the technical stuff. That’s a boon for any job seeker who is looking to either launch their first career or pivot into a new one.
Now, it’s important to note that hiring managers aren’t going to ask for “transferable skills” specifically. Instead, they are going to talk about the capabilities they are after. But they might not be worried about where you acquired them. That’s why portable skills are so awesome.
How to Highlight Transferable Skills for Job Search
Okay, by now, you should have a decent idea about what transferable skills are and why they matter. But how do you highlight the right ones during your job search? Well, by using the same approach you would for skills acquired in the field.
With transferable skills, the difference isn’t really in the capability itself. Instead, it’s the fact that you earned or developed it outside of the field the new job is in.
Whether you’re writing a resume, creating a cover letter, or preparing answers for classic job interview questions, you simply want to present the skills the right way. What’s the right way? It’s “showing” instead of “telling.”
Think about it this way. If you were read two resumes, one where the person simply said “I have skill X” and the other that discussed an accomplishment where they put skill X to work, which one would be more compelling? The second one, right? Of course.
As with all skills, you want to use an accomplishment-based approach. By outlining transferable skills examples that demonstrate how you put your skills to work, you give the hiring manager critical context. It’s a must more impactful strategy, and it’s more likely to land you an interview and, ultimately, the job.
How do you know which skills to list? Well, by using the Tailoring Method. With the Tailoring Method, it’s all about showcasing relevant capabilities. You research the exact role, learn more about the must-have capabilities, and focus on highlighting those skills. That way, your application and interview answers speak to the hiring manager’s needs, which is really what it’s all about.
How to Develop Transferable Skills If You Don’t Have Them
Alright, before we dig into how to develop transferable skills, it’s important to understand that there’s a good chance you actually do have transferable skills. The thing is, not everyone realizes that they have them.
In a survey of workers who were displaced by the pandemic, 57 percent couldn’t identify – with a high degree of certainty – their transferable skills. So, if you’re having trouble seeing yours, you aren’t alone.
But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Spend time reflecting on your past work, school, volunteering, and other experiences. Consider what skills helped you do what you needed to do. Then, think about how you can use those capabilities elsewhere. Any skill that passes that test is potentially portable.
Now, does that mean you can’t develop more? Of course not. Here’s a look at some steps you can take if you want to boost your skillset.
Any job can potentially give you transferable skills. Most positions require you to use a range of soft skills that can easily move into different fields. If you’re genuinely starting from the beginning, any role could be a great option.
Consider which skills could help you move toward your preferred career. Then, explore all of the job options that can let you hone them. While it may mean exploring positions you would have otherwise overlooked, if you’re early in your career or making a dramatic change, this could be worthwhile.
Plus, you don’t have to focus on full-time, permanent opportunities. Even a temporary position can do the trick. Stay open-minded. By doing that, you could find a great option.
If you’re looking for something more flexible, gig work can also be great for skill development. You may be able to find entry-level options that let you hone a wide range of skills, both hard and soft.
Never underestimate the power of volunteering. In many volunteer positions, you’ll learn crucial skills. After all, soft skills like communication, collaboration, and organization are practically universal, so you’ll be able to develop foundational capabilities like those nearly anywhere.
Taking a Class
Thanks to the internet, there’s a class on essentially any skill. As a bonus, many of them are either free or incredibly inexpensive, so you won’t have to invest a ton to take advantage of these skill-building opportunities.
Figure out which skills you want to develop. Then, do a quick search to see if there are courses available. Places like Coursera and Khan Academy can be great places to start, but they certainly aren’t the only options available.
Join a Club
Yes, there are clubs that can help you develop transferable skills. Toastmasters is a prime example, as it helps people get together to work on public speaking, communication, and leadership. However, you don’t have to stop there.
Many meetups are skill-oriented. Plus, even casual ones like book clubs could help you develop your capabilities. If you choose skill-boosting books, you can get a two-for-one experience, making it even more valuable.
Throughout your daily life, you put all kinds of skills to work. While you might not be able to list them all on your resume, you can use these activities to improve in key areas.
Want to boost your organizational skills? Take a look at your finances, family schedule, and similar responsibilities for opportunities. Need to practice communicating? Schedule talks with friends and family about a certain topic.
If you look at your life, you may be surprised about how many opportunities arise during a typical day. Don’t overlook them. Instead, seize them, allowing you to grow professionally each and every day.
List of Transferable Skills
Okay, you probably have a good idea about what transferable skills are and how to build them. Not, it’s time for some amazing transferable skills examples. Here are some of the most common portable skills today:
- Time Management
- Attention to Detail
- Active Listening
- Basic Mathematics
- Public Speaking
- Strategic Thinking
Is that every transferable skill on the planet? No, it isn’t. Those are simply the ones that many people have that are highly portable.
Remember, any skill is potentially transferable. It simply depends on the job you’re trying to land. If it’s relevant to the role, where you got the skill isn’t as important as the fact that you have it. So, make sure to highlight it during your job search.
Putting It All Together
Ultimately, any capability that you can take with you, even if you change careers, is potentially a transferable skill. Reflect on your past experience to identify yours, and work to earn the ones you’ll need for your next job. That way, you can keep your career moving, no matter where you want to go.
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