The COVID-19 pandemic has led to many people taking stock of their lives and reappraising their careers. Often, people will ask themselves how easy it might be to successfully change careers and their working lives, as well as what skills they might offer to potential employers.
There are many different industries to choose from, and every job profile has a different skillset which employers require. That said, certain skills are becoming increasingly transferable, allowing you to hop from on job to the next. Automation and the digital revolution are driving this shift and causing the demand for transferable skills to grow.
This article explores the world of transferable skills, including what they are and how you can make use of them to further your career or take a bold step into something wonderfully new.
What are transferable skills?
Transferable skills are competencies that can be applied across a range of different settings. These skills seamlessly transfer from one job to another, hence their name.
Transferable skills can range from hard to soft skills. The former refers to technical skills that can be acquired though practice and that relate to specific actions or tasks, such as data analysis, coding, or expertise on a certain system. Soft skills, on the other hand, are the ones we use without realizing. They are crucial but non-technical and are predominantly learned through experience. Examples of soft skills could be people skills, flexibility, empathy, or time management.
Soft skills are a lot more transferable than hard skills, but both types are useful and can be applied in many different settings. For example, you will use your communication skills in most workplaces – that’s a given – but expertise in a certain software system can also be transferable as many organizations could be using this platform.
The importance of transferable skills
Transferable skills are like gold dust for your CV or résumé as they are indicative of your value as an applicant. By demonstrating your transferable skills, you can convince the recruiter that you are a good fit for the role, even if you don’t meet certain requirements.
Having a broad suite of transferable skills also means that you can add value to the organization by being able to take on different tasks and projects but also handle various situations. Not only can your transferable skills land you a new job but also lead to career growth and promotion opportunities. Finally, transferable skills will empower you to adapt to changes happening within your industry and will enable you to hit the ground running when something unfamiliar or challenging arises.
Types of transferable skills
Transferable skills are often interconnected and multi-faceted. Luckily, we have put together a list that breaks down transferable skills into different categories, including general skills, interpersonal skills, management skills, communication skills, clerical skills, and IT and technical skills.
General skills can be applied across different contexts and settings. Their versatility makes them especially useful to learn and fine-tune.
Some examples of general skills are:
- Logical reasoning
Interpersonal skills are often connected to emotional or social intelligence. These skills help us interact with others, such as colleagues, managers, or customers. They are obviously also critical in helping us develop social relationships. Some people are naturally gifted when it comes to interpersonal skills, but all these abilities can be developed and learned, too.
Some examples of interpersonal skills are:
- Conflict resolution
- Customer service
- Emotional intelligence
- Motivating others
All organizations require component management and leadership so they can run in the right way, grow, look after their employees, and make money. Good management ensures a ‘safe ship’: effective managers plan, organize, and coordinate the activities of process and people. Management skills have evolved over the years, but the fundamentals of these skills have not changed.
Some examples of management skills are:
- Providing feedback
- Project management
- Resource allocation
- Strategic thinking
Communication skills concern how well you impart, process, and receive information. These skills complement your interpersonal and management abilities and enable you to efficiently process work and handle conflict. Communication skills have taken on a new angle since the dawn of the Digital Revolution. We are now expected to communicate effectively online (such as via social media and video conferencing), as well as in person, in writing, and over the telephone. It should come as no surprise, then, that communication skills are some of the most important and sought-after transferable skills to have.
Examples of communication skills include:
- Active listening
- Non-verbal cues
- Public speaking
- Cross-cultural communication
- Written skills
Clerical skills relate to administrative tasks and are critical for the smooth running of an organization. Being proficient in these skills can be essential for several role including secretaries, clerical assistants, administrative officers and office managers.
Some examples of clerical skills are:
- Attention to detail
- Computer literacy
- Critical thinking
- Data entry
- Diary management
- Time management
IT and technical skills
Technical skills require training and expertise to master them. Technical skills relate to technology, software, mathematics, and creative processes. They also cover information technology (IT), which hosts a whole separate subset of skills in its own right.
The complicated and specialist nature of some of these skills means that, if you have them, you could be an extremely desirable and employable candidate. As a result, IT and tech skills can increase your earning potential, as well as your marketability as a candidate.
Some examples of IT and technical skills are:
- Analytical skills
- Application knowledge
- Big data analysis
- Coding and programming
- Digital marketing and social media management
- Machine learning and AI
- Proficiency with common operating systems
- Social media management
- Technical writing
- Website design
How to identify your transferable skills
Identifying what your transferable skills are offers great advantages. Firstly, you can better understand how your existing skillset aligns with different career paths and job roles that interest you. This will also allow you to work on the skills that matter. Secondly, you will be able to identify the skills you are best at. These are the ones you should invest in, as they will have the greatest impact on your life and career.
Here are four steps you can take to identify your transferable skills:
Step 1: Study job search profiles
Take some time to look through job adverts, both for jobs you might be interested in and ones that you haven’t really considered. Look at the required skills listed under these roles, and create your own list of skills you might need to develop. This will also allow you to ask yourself what your key skills are, as well as which ones you really enjoy using.
Step 2: Conduct a self-analysis
A self-analysis might consist of a ‘stay interview’, where you critically evaluate your skills based on questions you will need to ask yourself and answer honestly. These questions might include:
- What skills do I have but am not currently using?
- What skills do I need to perform my job?
- What skills do I enjoy using?
- What skills do I not enjoy using?
- If I could do any job in the world, what would it be and what skills would I need?
Consider also keeping a learning diary, logging regularly what you have learned and the skills these actions required. You might be able to identify emerging patterns and grow your abilities.
Step 3: Ask for a performance review
Performance reviews are conducted by your manager or supervisor. During this process, your skills – as well as your technical abilities – will be assessed. At the very least, a performance review will give you a good idea of your strengths and weaknesses, helping you understand which areas and skills you need to work on. Many companies tie in performance reviews to competency frameworks, where your skills can be mapped against what is needed for your role.
Step 4: Complete a skill assessment
Identifying your own skills can be challenging and a skills test can be a straightforward way for you to get an overview of your core competencies. These assessments can help you uncover other factors that will contribute to your career, such as your natural talents, interests and SWOT information (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats).
Our very own CareerHunter test includes a six-stage assessment which measures your numerical, abstract and verbal reasoning, helping you get a better understanding of your skills as well as interests.
How to market your transferable skills
Understanding and identifying your transferable skills is only half the battle. You need to be able to market these in the right way, too. For starters, make sure to list and demonstrate your skills on your LinkedIn profile and résumé.
To take this to the next level, analyze the job roles you are interested in and ensure the skills the recruiter requires are matched word for word on your résumé and cover letter. By tailoring your documents, applicant tracking systems (ATS) will pick up your application rather than filtering it out of the process. That said, it’s important not to lie about your existing skillset, as you will get caught.
Finally, it’s essential to think of examples in your current or previous roles where you have used your transferable skills. These examples will form the basis for behavioral interview questions that recruiters will ask to understand if you are the ideal candidate.
Transferable skills are vital for every professional across all industries.
In terms of changing or furthering your career, transferable skills can be used in different settings and workplaces, allowing you to acclimate to new roles faster.
As for developing and growing your transferable skills, this process starts with you understanding what current skillset and how it can be applied to your work and personal life. Take the time to appraise your skills and discover what you do well and what you need to work on. The key is to keep learning and marketing your abilities so you can ensure you stand out from the crowd.