Transferable Skills:
What You Must Have
When Finding A New Career


Transferable skills are skills you have acquired from past and present activities (including but not limited to work skills) that can be transferred and used in a new job or career.

Why Are Transferable Skills Important?

There are two strong reasons.

The first is aptly explained in The Unwritten Laws of Business:

"If your skills and knowledge are valuable only to your current employer, you are in trouble. Sooner or later...your employer will no longer be interested in buying those skills, and you will have no place else to sell them."

This is about skills updating, the importance of lifelong learning and the danger of obsolescence. Don't become so mired in the specifics of your current job description that you forget to develop other valuable work skills and pass up on opportunities to expand your skill list.

The second reason is particularly relevant to career change.

When you are changing careers, you may have no relevant experience. Thus, the onus is on you to prove to your new employer that you have the skills and traits that fit the job description.

Does this mean you shouldn't apply?

Not necessarily. Here's what you can do.

In your career change resume, list your transferable skills, rather than just narrating your previous job descriptions. Show how your skills list matches the criteria for your new job. This is even more important if there is a gap in your resume because you have taken time off for personal reasons, and if you are changing professions.

Transferable Skills = Employability Skills

There are some basic transferable skills all employers want, and that all employees should have.

Make sure you have, or at least, are in the process of acquiring, the types of skill sets commonly described in job ads.

Basic Employability Skills

Communication: the art and technique of effectively making information and ideas known.

  • Writing: Is your writing concise and effective?
  • Speaking: When you speak, do your listeners get the message? When you advocate a new idea, are they persuaded?
  • Listening: Do you listen more than you speak? Do you 'hear' what is unsaid?

Interpersonal Relations: the ability to get along with others

Are you good at:

  • developing rapport?
  • working in a team?
  • winning others over to your way of thinking?
  • managing conflict effectively?
  • delegating responsibility appropriately?

Management and Leadership

How competent are you at:

  • resolving conflicts?
  • promoting change?
  • making decisions in consultation with others?
  • coming up with new ideas?
  • training and educating others?
  • managing teams?
  • motivating, counseling and coaching?

Project Management

When you are assigned a project, how skilled are you at:

  • gathering information and resources?
  • identifying problems?
  • predicting outcomes?
  • creating a schedule of tasks?
  • setting goals?
  • solving problems?
  • implementing decisions and executing tasks to achieve the desired outcome?

Sales and Marketing

Marketing is about getting your product or brand out to the people who want to buy it. Sales is about bringing in profit. It is the lifeblood of any commercial enterprise. Together, they create an unbeatable advantage for those who know how to use their sales and marketing knowledge wisely.

The Next Level: Beyond Basic Skills

In every industry and profession, there are certain skills displayed by a minority of high performers, skills that employers would be happy to pay good money for.

These skills are discussed here.

Your Action Challenge

You have more skills than you think. Maybe you just didn't know they had any value or relevance to a change of career.

Think back on all the activities, hobbies, volunteer work and jobs you have been involved in.

If you have:

  • raised children
  • fund-raised for school
  • led a scrapbooking group for the ladies at church
  • organized a car boot sale
  • read with your child's class
  • hosted birthday parties
  • given music lessons
  • built a website
  • conducted information seminars
  • compiled and produced reports
  • used the Internet for research,

you already have transferable work skills that you can highlight in your resume when you are finding a new career or job. Every little bit of real-world experience adds to your overall impression of credibility and competence.

Let these ideas help you create your own unique list of transferable skills. Seeing your skills in print will help you build self confidence and focus on finding the best ways to use them.

Related Resources

Need help to identify your transferable skills?

Want a professional opinion on your resume or ideas on how to create a resume that strongly showcases your abilities and experience?

For career books, career search engines and other resources that can help you build and reinforce your transferable skills, be sure to visit our Career Builders page.

Of, you could enlist the help of a career counselor or career coach by filling in the Contact Form.

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