Artwork by: Antonina Kasyanikova
Looking to boost your chances of securing an interview? Identifying and highlighting your transferable skills across the hiring process is one way to impress an employer and land your dream job! Follow our guide to showcasing your skill set and landing your next dream job!
One of the most common concerns of people facing career transitions is the fear that they lack the necessary skills for their desired career. Many people tend to think of their abilities as one-sided, only applicable to the type of work they’ve always done. And that makes sense - they’ve never seen their skills applied in any other way.
This concern is why coaches focus on revealing their client’s transferable skills - the abilities and skills you already have which you’ll bring with you to the next stage of your career. According to Leah Busque, an American entrepreneur, “People with highly transferable skills may be specialists in certain areas, but they're also incredible generalists - something businesses that want to grow need.”
The pandemic shifted the work landscape considerably, with many of the working population changing their priorities. Whether you are looking for a career switch-up or seeking a new role out of necessity, identifying your transferable skills can definitely help you land your dream job.
In this article we explore:
What are transferable skills?
Top transferable skills for resumes
How to identify your transferable skills
Highlighting your transferable skills
Transferable skills are qualities, abilities, and experiences that we develop throughout our life that contribute to our success, and they don’t always come exclusively from work. They may come from hobbies, school projects, volunteer work, freelancing, or other areas.
Transferable skills can be hard skills, such as coding with Python, performing data analysis, or speaking several languages, or they can be soft skills such as problem-solving, adaptability and relationship building.
To help uncover your transferable skills, ask yourself: What do people come to you for? What are you good at? How can these abilities help in a different situation? It may require some imagination and some research, but it’s likely that you’re not as far away from your next career move as you may think.
Before you start your job application, check the job description which will have specifics of the essential and desirable skills required for the job opening. While transferable skills may vary from job to job, here are some of the top transferable skills employers are looking out for.
Communication is the ability to share your ideas and information in a clear and concise way, whether verbally or in writing. In terms of verbal communication, this also extends to the ability to read verbal cues and body language as well as tailoring your language to your audience.
Transferable communication skills can include active listening, giving and taking feedback, nonverbal communication, writing, and public speaking.
While the role you are applying for may not require you to lead a team, leadership skills can arise in other situations. This could include taking the lead on a group project and ensuring the team works cohesively throughout the project lifecycle.
Effective leadership tends to be a blend of transferable skills. You need to organize, motivate, take responsibility for others, build relationships, manage any conflicts, and keep the team on track for success.
Everyone working toward a common goal is at the core of teamwork. There is a distinct difference between being on a team and being a team player. An individual can be part of a team, but if they don’t contribute toward the common goal then they aren’t a team player.
During an interview it’s a good idea to provide specific examples of successful teamwork. Focus on the qualities of empathy, communication, active listening, and self-awareness to describe how well you work with others.
Having strong project management skills ensures that tasks get completed in line with key milestones and deliverables. An organized and flexible approach are key components of project management and also really important in the workplace.
Demonstrating that you can deliver a project from start to finish, overcome challenging obstacles, and deliver high quality work to a deadline will really impress a hiring manager. Think about a specific time you utilized project management skills, whether that was a university, work, volunteer, or personal project.
Decision-making skills are essential for success in any career, as they help you choose the best solutions for different challenges. The decision-making process involves assessing all the facts presented, understanding current and future goals, then choosing the best course of action.
You may be a project coordinator who encounters a bottleneck or issue that could lead to major delays or increased costs. If you work in human resources, you might need to decide which candidates to interview or hire. To position yourself as a strong decision-maker, focus on highlighting your problem-solving, critical-thinking, creativity, and analytical approach throughout the hiring process.
Adaptability is the ability to rapidly adjust to new situations. Individuals who possess this skill can easily navigate unfamiliar environments and deal with any new challenges with success. This can be transferable-skill gold to a potential employer.
Examples of adaptability include a new hire who quickly gets up to speed on a critical project or a warehouse operative that can dispatch products, monitor inventory, and complete delivery runs. When working in fast-paced and demanding environments, adaptability is a major plus.
Being a trusted employee means that an employer can rely on you to complete your assigned tasks on time and to a consistent standard. Transferable dependability skills include being punctual, having a strong work ethic, honesty, integrity, and the ability to meet deadlines.
Employers are always on the look-out for staff with these attributes and will often trust these same employees with key tasks, assignments, and projects in the future.
Being self-motivated and showing initiative in the workplace will really help you get ahead. The ability to pursue ideas, solve problems, and complete tasks with minimal supervision is highly valued by employers. Using your initiative also shows your commitment to your job and to the overall success of the organization
Demonstrate to the employer that you are a self-motivated, creative thinker who can set goals while also actively monitoring your progress toward those goals. Highlight any specific improvements you have made to internal systems or processes in previous roles.
Positive relationships form the foundation of a successful organization. The ability to build strong relationships with colleagues, management, clients, suppliers, and stakeholders is an extremely valuable transferable skill.
If you are a strong communicator and good listener with empathy and high emotional intelligence, then you will likely be an amazing relationship-builder. People who possess these transferable skills are also great at mediation, resolving conflict, or aligning differing goals.
Many jobs require a certain level of technical proficiency. This can go from using MS Office suite and web-based software on a daily basis to possessing a more advanced level of expertise if your target roles are in IT or technical sectors. Check out job postings for your target role and see what types of technology and level of expertise employers are seeking. You may find it is worth completing some professional certifications to add to your transferable skill set and boost your chances of an interview.
Now that you have an understanding of some of the common types of transferable skills examples, you can start to identify which ones you have.
Write down a list of specific tasks that you have done at previous jobs, hobbies, or volunteer work. Underneath each one, write down the special skills or abilities that were required to do this task. Ask yourself, “Why was I good at this?”
Identify the five skills that have been most impactful for you in both your personal and professional life.
Create a list of key achievements for each skill on the short list.
Rank the five skills from most impactful to least impactful. This is not a judgment on your skills; it’s more to develop a clear sense of which skills have created the most impact.
When applying for jobs, use your transferable skills to enhance your resume summary or objective, employment history, and skills sections. Check the job posting for essential and desirable skills required. You can then use the above exercise to identify ways in which you have used these skills personally and professionally.
In a cover letter you could also include reference to your most impactful transferable skills. Focus on detailing one or two of these transferable skills and back them up with a specific achievement.
“In my current role as Customer Service Associate, I am responsible for handling high-volume calls, averaging around 100 calls per day. Strong communication and relationship-building skills have been critical when speaking to clients on the phone and resolving any escalated issues or concerns. Our team achieved 95% in customer satisfaction feedback last month, reflecting our customer-first work environment.”
During an interview you should also highlight your transferable skills while answering the interviewer’s questions. Look to “show” how you have used these skills successfully via specific examples instead of simply telling the hiring manager you possess that particular skill.
Never underestimate the value of transferable skills. They are increasingly valuable in the job market and give you an opportunity to stand out in the applicant pool.
Identify your most impactful transferable skills and achievements. Use this information to enhance your resume and cover letter for specific jobs and to effectively convey your qualifications during a job interview.
Only use transferable skills that are relevant to the job you are applying for.
Old resumes, previous performance reviews, and comments from work connections and friends can help you uncover transferable skills you might not have thought of.
Boosting your technical skills via a professional certification is a great way to enhance your transferable skills, particularly if you are in a high-demand sector such as IT, social media marketing, project management, or data analysis.
Helen is an experienced freelance writer with a strong background in job search and career advice, in particular resume best practices, interviewing, and personal and professional development. Before Career.io, Helen worked for high-profile recruitment firms and in the field of HR management, so she has a strong sense of what recruiters are looking for in a potential employee as well as experience in supporting career growth and development.