Transferable skills can be the key to succeeding in a difficult jobs market. Demonstrating skills that can be applied in a wide range of jobs or responsibilities gives employers confidence that you can be an asset in a range of situations. Also, transferable skills can be super useful to show you have a broad range of skills asked for on many job descriptions.
The jobs market has become more competitive recently and it may seem that you have to have all of the skills listed on a job ad to stand any chance of getting the gig. The good news is that employers are always ready to look at people with transferable skills.
In this article we will show you what transferable skills are and some practical ways to highlight them on your CV.
Transferable Skills Definition
Transferable skills are any ability you have acquired in one sphere of life that you can use in another. For example, you may have learned how to prioritise tasks working on a charity project, which is a valued skill in many workplaces.
Often, transferable skills are softer and less task or company-specific than non-transferable skills and can include experience with software such as Excel, PowerPoint and GoogleDocs, which most companies use. So rather than knowing the part number of every item in a company’s sales catalogue (which wouldn’t be transferable), managing a budget is transferable because it is a skill that can be used in any company and many jobs.
Although they can sometimes be difficult to measure or quantify, transferable skills are a good sign that you have developed high-level abilities that can be effectively utilised by any employer. Having a wide variety of transferable skills makes employees more flexible and agile. When a company needs to pivot and change tack, the employees with the most comprehensive skill-set are highly valued.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that leaders who have a wide range of transferable skills also value diversity within teams, and the more inclusive and diverse a group is, the better they perform.
What makes transferable skills so attractive for employers is that they can also be used in many positions and on many projects around the company. This means that when they employ a person who has a diverse range of transferable skills they are not only getting more value for their money, they are reducing the risk of hiring a person who may have only a limited impact in their organisation.
Types of Transferable Skills
Transferable skills might not be listed on a job advert or description. Still, you can take aspects of the role and show how your transferable skills would help you achieve what the employer wants.
The following types of transferable skills are the main categories that you can use to sell your competencies to a prospective employer.
- Research and planning
- Interpersonal skills
- Management and leadership
- Work ethic
- Data experience
Let’s take a closer look at these individually.
There can’t be many jobs where communication isn’t an essential skill. Still, with the advent of more remote working, communication is more critical than ever in the workplace. Drawing out times when you have used communication effectively and where it has made a real difference is essential.
Communication can be formal but is just as important when it is informal and still produces the required results. A good example would be a time when you were able to speak quietly to a disagreeable colleague and bring them back on side so that they can contribute positively to a team. This shows not only your communication skills but also your diplomatic ability.
This informal communication style shows a well developed emotional intelligence which in turn gives the employee the ability to work collaboratively, deliver useful feedback and successfully coach and train others.
Research and planning
The ability to plan a workload is useful in so many situations at work that it is one of the most important transferable skills. Being able to bring to bear problem-solving, goal setting, and prioritisation techniques show potential employers that you have real business skills to be harnessed.
Perhaps you spent time researching suppliers to buy equipment from, listing all the options, the benefits, drawbacks and places to purchase. The ability to carry out professional research is essential, as is the critical thinking and decision-making process that goes along with it.
Look to show where you have made a decision and then also carried out some reflective analysis to highlight your ability to provide feedback and learn from experience. It is helpful if you have used well-known decision-making models and understand the problems inherent with these as these skills are useful in every organisation, every day.
This is a bit of a catch-all for many important soft-skills relating to the way we interact with our colleagues and customers. Interpersonal skills allow you to build positive relationships with customers, work collaboratively with colleagues, and train and motivate new employees all add real value to a business.
Has there been a time when you were able to motivate a group of people or maybe lend a sympathetic ear to a distressed colleague? Employers want to know that you are going to fit into a team, that you can work with others and that you are not going to upset their customers or suppliers.
Although many people might dismiss these soft skills as not being necessary, in reality, they form a large part of employers’ thinking when it comes to recruitment.
Management and leadership
Many people think that to show leadership you need to have been on a dozen courses and have a shiny diploma, but nothing could be further from the truth. Leaders exist at all levels in an organisation and don’t necessarily need to be appointed to a management role.
In fact, one of the most challenging skills to learn is to manage an informal team of people who aren’t paid to be there!
This means that if you can demonstrate leadership skills gained when you led a project team at school or university, spearheaded an initiative in your community or perhaps you got people together to raise money for a charity then you have real skills to offer any organisation.
Can you show a time when you went above and beyond?
Are you able to detail an occasion when you put extra effort in?
Did this lead to a really positive result for people?
Work ethic isn’t about showing that you did 10 hours instead of 8 on a shift, but more about what positive outcomes occurred because you went the extra mile. Work ethic is more a state of mind. It’s about personal discipline, dedication to a task and having a level of integrity and professionalism that makes you attractive to employers.
In short, employers know that they can leave you alone and you’ll perform.
Do you have experience working with data?
This might include having critical thinking skills, understanding information and being able to present it to non-technical people, or merely being able to accurately and speedily enter data onto a system.
If you can show that you can handle data effectively in one arena, then this is transferable to another.
Using a spreadsheet to create a sales forecast might, at first sight, seem to be a pretty specific skill, but actually, the learning from it can be transferred to producing an analysis of in-house learning programs, organising a staff rota or any number of data-intensive jobs.
Detailing a time when you carried out a survey, analysed information or used the results of your research to present data in an informative and engaging way will show employers that you have real data handling skills.
Creativity is a skill that is difficult to teach but is in great demand from many employers. Creativity is prized in the media and arts obviously, but it is also a very desirable quality in areas you may not expect.
Forensic accountants need to think creatively about how wrongdoers may have got away with cash, burglar alarm installers need to use their creativity to work out how thieves may get into a building, and marketers are always searching for new and exciting ways to promote their clients.
Again this is often difficult to add numbers to but being able to show that you can creatively solve problems is a significant plus factor for your CV.
Transferable Skills Examples
As an example of how a transferable skill could help in a job or position, let’s think of someone who had worked as a sales assistant in a retail store but in their spare time had also helped to lead a project to support a charities community food bank.
Suppose we were to look purely at the skills that they had acquired in their paid working life. In that case, you may be forgiven for thinking that they are only capable of working at a junior level. However, looking at the transferable skills they developed when volunteering for the charity, we can see a different picture.
Leading any project gives you management and leadership skills, even if you don’t have any formal qualifications and without a doubt leading a charity project will also provide you with excellent diplomatic skills. Besides, it will show prospective employers that you can manage the pressure and that you have an in-built resilience that a leader needs.
The ability to work collaboratively in a team is highly prized by employers as is the skill of task prioritisation, and these are both learned on projects. Again these interpersonal skills are all signs of people with well-developed emotional intelligence, and this is a trait that is often cited by employers as highly desirable.
Understanding the goal of the project, managing resources and communicating the progress to charity trustees are all excellent examples of transferable skills that would be required on any project with any company.
The majority of charities will want to make the most of their money and so being efficient, watching the budget and making sure you get good value for money are examples of where a skill may be difficult to quantify whilst also being incredibly valuable for employers.
Adding Transferable Skills To Your CV
We can see that transferable skills are beneficial for employers and are the sort of thing that can make a big difference to your CV. What is essential is to make sure that you highlight yours so that readers can see just how they could be used in their company.
For example, our charity worker might include on their CV that they used Excel, worked in a team of seven people and gave 12 hours per week to the charity, all of which would be factually true. But what is much more helpful on the CV is to provide examples of how your transferable skills can be used in the future.
So our worker could highlight that they developed their budget management, leadership and project management skills all of which will help the employer understand that they have been working at a high level and have abilities that they can use in a different organisation.
When you are looking at highlighting your transferable skills, it is always useful to show practical ways that they helped the organisation. So, for example, rather than saying that they led a team of seven people, our charity worker could say that they delivered a food bank project on time and within budget that fed 300 people a day. This gives the reader a much clearer vision of how your work changed the organisation for the better.
Transferable skills add so much richness to your CV and show potential employers that you are much more than the sum of your parts.
Why not take some time to sit down and reflect on what transferable skills you have developed over the years and update your CV to ensure that employers recognise the breadth, depth and value that you would add to their organisation?
Also, if you are thinking about a career change, the UK National Career Service has a skills assessment service that’s free to help identify roles that match your skills profile.
Remember, the ‘whole you’ is so much more than the ‘job title you’!