The ability to highlight your transferable skills can make all the difference in your next career move, whether you are moving up in your industry or transitioning to an entirely new line of work. If you are starting a job hunt in either of these scenarios, you need to know what transferable skills are, how specific skills may make you a strong candidate for a new role, and how to talk about these skills in order to get a hiring manager to take a chance on you.
What Are Transferable Skills?
Unlike job-specific skills, transferable skills are adaptable from job to job and field to field. They tend to be soft skills that you could have acquired in any number of ways, rather than through education or training. These skills include communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, multitasking, time management, teamwork, creativity, and leadership. Regardless of the career direction you choose, these skills are integral to your success.
Transferable skills are interconnected. Consider the relationships between critical thinking and problem-solving, communication and teamwork, or multitasking and time management. To solve problems consistently over time, you need innate critical thinking ability, developed through professional experiences. To communicate effectively as a collaborator or leader, you need the listening and processing skills that make you a good teammate.
Why Focus on Transferable Skills in Your Job Hunt?
Let’s try a quick exercise. If you have bookmarked job postings that you are interested in, pull one up. Regardless of industry or function, you will find keywords in the description relating to transferable skills, like multitasker, creative, or efficient.
For instance, a “collaborative” working environment indicates the employer’s preference for candidates with well-developed teamwork skills. “Inter-departmental” projects signify the importance of communication and presentation capabilities. The use of these words is like a secret language, compelling you to present the right combination of transferable skills and related experiences in your resume and cover letter, and in your interviews.
As you group together related job postings, you will see the commonalities in transferable skills required. Take the time to review your employment history, focusing on your most recent work, and align your experience and achievements with these skills. If you are light on some of these skills, consider this your professional development project over the next few weeks. Look for opportunities to develop these skills, either in your current position, or through volunteer work. If you feel you are not in striking distance of being able to develop these skills, take stock in your background and determine whether it makes sense to pursue the position. Before you make any career move, work on developing into the consummate professional your ideal job demands.
How to Communicate Transferable Skills
Once you have identified a common set of transferable skills required by multiple employers for the type of position you seek, the next step is to develop concrete examples of how you have put these skills into action. For example, if you learn that working collaboratively with both in-house and remote workers is critical for a project management role, then focus on bringing relevant experiences to the forefront in your communications.
Once you have landed interviews, take an assertive role in expressing how you are looking for an opportunity to use the skills you have developed. Don’t depend on the interviewer to necessarily provide opportunities for you to share your concrete examples. You may have to probe the hiring manager for examples of how particular transferable skills apply to the position, which should then enable you to communicate how you have developed these skills. Specificity is key; the better you can illustrate a clear picture of your application of these skills, the more compelling you will appear as a candidate.
Industries and professions are evolving at an ever-increasing rate, and often the hard skills that professionals develop become obsolete over time. The current environment is ideal for those who are committed to cultivating and communicating the right set of transferable job skills.