Are you currently going through a career transition or just thinking about changing your job role? If this is the case, start with weighing your options, evaluating skills and personal qualities you possess, thoroughly and objectively.
Whether the position is in the same field doing similar work or in an entirely different area, in all likelihood, you have developed a lot of skills that you can successfully bring to a new company based on your previous years of learning and working. These skills are known as Transferable, and this article will focus on the types of skills that meet this definition.
What Are Transferable Skills?
Transferable skills are those skills you already possess that can be transferred to any new job you are applying for.
In our blog How to Sell Yourself in a Job Interview, we discuss hard and soft skills. From that article, we know what hard skills are. If, for example, you are going for an accounting job, being a CPA is a hard skill required to perform the accountant’s role. We don’t think of a hard skill as transferable, as much as we think of it as a necessity. It is the soft skills that are transferable.
The Major Categories
There are dozens of transferable skills that a person might possess. The following list is not meant to be comprehensive but should give you a good idea of the kinds of skills an employer is hoping you will bring to the job.
Communication – Whether you’re a graphic designer, an HR professional or an accountant, the ability to communicate with all levels at work is an asset held in high regard by all employers.
Teamwork – Very few of us operate in a vacuum. We work with others every day on an ongoing basis. The ability to work with teams is vitally important to almost every workplace.
Critical Thinking – The ability to objectively analyze and evaluate an issue is a key goal in many work situations.
Leadership – Leaders demonstrate that they are able to motivate others to achieve common goals. It is a quality hiring managers look for even in non-managerial job candidates.
Organization – People who are well organized are able to plan and prioritize their work to achieve their goals.
Listening – The ability to listen and understand instructions, as well as the needs of others, helps ensure a smooth-running organization that gets things done.
Dependability – The qualities of reliability and trustworthiness are hallmarks of a great employee.
Technical Competence – Nowadays, everyone is expected to have a certain level of technical competence. We’re not talking about the ability to write code but rather to understand how to use technology, especially applications such as Microsoft Office or Google Docs.
In this section, we will show a list of examples of transferable skills that we outlined in the various categories above and feature a further explanation of one of the examples from each one.
Please note that throughout this review, you may see certain words repeat in different sections. That is because many of the skills shown closely impact each other across categories. We also suggest that you research or “google” any of the terms shown below to get a better understanding of those terms that interest you the most.
Communication skills include:
- reading non-verbal cues,
Responsiveness – Great communicators are always prepared to respond to others, whether by email, phone, or in person. They make a point of getting back as soon as possible to those who have a question, thought, or idea. They differentiate themselves from those who are slow to respond or do not bother to respond at all. Responsiveness is greatly appreciated in the workplace.
Teamwork skills include:
- ability to work together,
- active listening,
- willingness to share expertise/experience,
- openness to suggestion.
Trust – Teams whose members trust one another will succeed! Sharing responsibility, handing off assignments to other members, and showing respect all around will help the team achieve its goal faster and more effectively.
Critical Thinking skills include:
Analysis – Analysis or analytical thinking involves the interpretation and understanding of data (in any form) to help make the right decisions and reach the right conclusions.
Leadership skills include:
- effective communication,
- relationship building,
Awareness – Staying informed about the major issues that impact your company and its business operations is one aspect of awareness. Being ready to take appropriate actions to address problems as they arise requires the right level of awareness.
Organizational skills include:
- keeping deadlines,
- team management,
- goal setting.
Delegation – Setting tasks and expectations for each member of the team requires the ability to comprehend each person’s ability to understand the assignment and their capacity for taking it on and completing it within the stated time frame.
Listening skills include:
- paying attention,
- providing immediate feedback,
- responding appropriately,
- showing encouragement.
Paying attention – Show interest in what the speaker is saying to you, especially if you are an audience of one. If you don’t pay attention, you may miss a vital piece of information that might have a negative effect on you and/or your work goals.
Dependability skills include:
- being on time,
- respecting deadlines,
- supporting coworkers,
- showing up for work every day,
- making and keeping commitments,
- being predictable.
Supporting coworkers – Coworkers and teammates must be able to support one another. Dependable employees can always be counted on to help their coworkers when deadlines and work goals are on the line.
Technical Competence skills include:
- understanding the business applications in use by the employer,
- being proficient in those applications,
- learning to use new applications.
Learning to use new applications – Business is moving at near light speed these days. New applications for use on the job seem to appear almost weekly. Of course, not everything that is new will be used by the company, but one has to be ready to learn which ones are important and how they work.
Acing the Interview – STAR Stories
Now that we have looked at several types of transferable skills, it’s time to think about which of these skills you own, and how they may have come into play during your career.
Of course, not everything listed will be a great fit, but you should be able to think of how you applied such skills to your advantage and that of your current/former employers.
If you are just starting out in your career, these skills may have been used at school, sports, volunteering, or other aspects of your life.
Let’s look at a few examples of STAR stories that show how job candidates applied their transferable skills to arrive at positive outcomes for both themselves and their employers.
Example #1 – Communication.
At my previous employer, we received several complaints from staff that they had been receiving sexually explicit emails at work. These employees were extremely uncomfortable and were quite frankly concerned about their personal safety.
As an HR manager, I was tasked to investigate the allegations, and eventually, the harassers were identified and ultimately terminated for their behavior. Using my communications skills, I took two steps:
1. I spoke directly to the people who were harassed, explaining the steps that we took in our investigation and its outcome, ensuring them that from now on, the company will work very hard to prevent any further problems in this area. I was able to get their buy-in that the company was doing the right thing.
2. I initiated a training program on sexual harassment for the entire organization. I developed a full training module on harassment and sexual harassment, created a PowerPoint presentation, and personally conducted training for 600 employees over a three-week period.
The program was clear on the facts and the harms caused by harassment, showed empathy to all employees that were victims of any type of harassment, and responded to the many questions raised by employees during the training.
Overall, my efforts were very well received by senior management, and the training program itself became the model for future staff training in a number of different subject areas.
Example #2 – Organization.
When I started with my new company several years ago, it had been using an outdated process for managing its large national sales division. They were concerned that sales were falling off due to the lack of proper controls. I was given the responsibility of putting together a team to develop an automated approach to this problem.
Although I was not an expert in this field, I had brought with me a strong set of organizational skills. I was initially assigned an employee with the right background in this field, and he made a huge impact on my knowledge of the area.
Then I brought in others from sales, accounting, and project management to round out the team. Using my organizational skills, I delegated tasks, set goals and deadlines, and managed weekly meetings.
Within 6 months, a prototype system was developed, and once the final system was rolled out at 9 months, the company began to see an almost immediate impact to the bottom line. Sales increased by nearly 15% compared to the previous year.
Showcasing Your Transferable Skills
We suggest that presenting your transferable skills is another way to get them recognized and influence those who would be making a hiring decision about you. Showcasing these skills may be the differentiator between you and other job candidates.
What exactly do we mean by showcasing?
It is a way of marketing yourself and your skills that go beyond your resume or cover letter.
- What if you could reference your own website, featuring your own interesting and useful blogs on subjects you know a lot about?
- What if you gave webinars in areas of your expertise?
- What if you started your own consulting business offering to help others with their business, financial or technical problems?
Think of how hiring managers and other decision-makers would look at a candidate who offered to share their knowledge and transferable skills in such dynamic and meaningful ways. You would certainly stand out from the crowd.
As an example, let’s say one of your transferable skills is communication. You are good at presentations and getting your point across to others. You also have subject matter expertise in your field.
Think about how you might develop a presentation on your subject area and how you might turn it into a webinar that others would benefit from. Once you have developed your program, approach groups that like to hear from experts in their field (e.g., local chambers of commerce, networking groups, local business organizations, church groups, etc.) and offer to present the subject to its members.
You would be surprised at how many of these groups are looking for speakers to round out their meetings. You would then be able to feature this skill in your job search, helping you stand out to prospective employers.
If you like to write, your expertise can be featured in a blog or blogs that you post to your own or on another website whose interests are closely aligned with yours. Your resume can feature the blogs with links directly to them. In this way, the reader will see how you approach issues or problems of mutual interest. They can also become talking points in your interviews with hiring managers.
If you don't know how exactly you can sell your transferable skills to your future employer, we can help you! Schedule time with our career mentor, and together we will reveal the unique skills that will present you as someone capable, interesting, and knowledgeable.
Transferable skills are extremely valuable! Never underestimate their power to influence a hiring manager and to differentiate you from other candidates.
Also, these skills are not meant to be exclusively for the job interview. They can easily be listed in your resume and mentioned in your cover letter. Very often, a shortened version of a STAR story involving these skills, when appearing in your resume, could directly lead to your getting that all-important job interview.
About the Author: Stuart Weiner has over 25 years of experience as a compliance officer and auditor primarily in the healthcare field and is currently the Principal of Integrated Compliance, a compliance consulting firm. He also serves as the registrar for the training committee at the Professional Service Group of Central New Jersey (PSGCNJ) – a US-based organization that helps job seekers in their career transition.