Transferable skills are a range of skills and abilities that can be used across a variety of job roles, sectors and situations. These are often sought after by employers for any role, so it’s important to know what they are, how to get them and find out if you’ve actually already got them – as you most likely have.
What are transferable skills
The term ‘transferable skill’ can cover a variety of abilities and skillsets, from communication to organisation, time management to resilience. They are basic skills that most people develop through their life and can be applied to a range of situations.
Transferable skills are highly important to a student or graduate, as they are always desired when applying to jobs. The good news is, you don’t have to have any work experience or qualifications to get them specifically, as your life experiences and education so far will have likely developed them for you.
Where can you develop transferable skills
Transferable skills are not only developed during your career, but can be developed through life generally and different volunteering and extracurricular activities.
Nor do they have to be developed in a similar area or role to the job you wish to go for, for example, your communication skills will come in handy in a marketing role, but you might have developed them through presentations during your studies. Your time management skills will be essential in a fast paced hospitality role, but you may have only learnt this skill from time spent volunteering at a sports club.
You might not think it at the time but the skills you learn through things such as hobbies, sporting and being part of a committee can really set you up for the workplace.
Some further examples could be:
- Leading a team – developed during your Duke of Edinburgh award hike
- Written communication – writing essays during your education
- Organisation – planning fixtures for your netball team’s matches
- Problem solving – a time where something went wrong on the committee you were part of at university and you helped to rectify it
Hopefully those ideas will get you thinking about what situations you may have already experienced that have given you these skills!
Why do we need transferable skills
Transferable skills are really important in any job. Within most roles, we’ll all need to communicate to a good standard to get our point across to colleagues, manage clients and more. It’s the same for things such as self-control, resilience, patience, and delegation – they hold the foundations of a good employee.
As a graduate looking for their first job or if we’re seeking a role that we have no direct experience for, transferable skills are really key. By having a range of transferable skills, and strong evidence as to how we gained them, we are demonstrating to prospective employers that we’re committed to learning a lot from the tasks and experiences we’re presented with, and that we have the foundations of being a hard worker.
Below are a few examples of transferable skills that can come in handy for any role and are developed continuously:
Resilience is how well a person can adapt to a situation, whether that be good, bad, stressful or emotional. It’s often demonstrated by how well and quickly someone can respond to and bounce back from something unplanned occuring.
Using examples of times where a project did not go to plan, or you had to think on your feet to ensure that a client or customer remained satisfied when things had gone wrong. This year has been a great example for us all to use, speaking of the resilience we have shown when our studying, working or career plans had a spanner thrown in the works.
Resilience is a common skill that employers look for, and this is increasingly important across all industries. Newton Europe, who each year hire a number of graduates as part of their graduate schemes, speak highly of resilient candidates. Within Newton’s roles, successful candidates are able to demonstrate their resilience and outline how they would react to various scenarios across consulting. Newton have a valuable library of resources on their website and Instagram, including this post on resilience as an employee.
Self-awareness is the notion of taking the time to reflect on yourself, ranging from better aligning your thoughts to your actions and understanding where there is room for improvement as an employee.
This is a skill often taught throughout our education. Those (boring at the time) self-development and self-reflection sheets on how we think we could have handled a situation better or completed an assignment to a higher standard all contribute to our self-awareness.
Employers want an employee that can say “I made an error here but by doing XYZ I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again”.
Organisation and Prioritisation
In the workplace, being able to organise your time and workload is a strong skill to have. This can directly translate from your time spent in education through to the workplace.
For example, your homework and university deadlines will have taught you how to stay organised and manage your time to ensure you get the work done. You may have also learnt how to say no to extracurricular requests or socialising when your deadlines were looming to ensure that you didn’t overcommit yourself.
There are lots of different experiences and situations you’ll have encountered where your organisation and prioritisation skills will have shone through.
How can you demonstrate these on your job applications
There are a few ways of highlighting your transferable skills on your job applications, so it’s a good idea to play around and see what works best for you. Sometimes it can be easy to mould your transferable skills into your previous employment experience and it flows naturally, but other times listing them in a skills section with evidence under each will suffice.
Within your cover letter, you can choose a couple of transferable skills that are most related to the role and expand upon times that you have demonstrated these abilities. Ensure that you don’t simply state “I have X skill”, but speak of facts and figures that really show that you do have that skill.
It’s important to note that many transferable skills can translate through how your applications read, too. If you claim to have excellent written communication skills, you need to make sure that your writing is up to standard on these documents. Similarly, if you’re applying for a role that requires attention to detail, make sure that there aren’t any errors in your CV as that will be spotted instantly.
So there’s a little summary of what transferable skills are, how we can develop them and how to demonstrate them in job applications. For more advice, make sure to visit my careers page.