7 Transferable Skills – and How To Talk About Them
Regardless of your field, there are several key skills that almost any job requires or values. They are skills that translate from one type of job into another, regardless of the industry or type of environment.
Especially when you want to shift from one job title, department, or field to another, knowing how to market yourself for a new position by focusing on your transferable skills is vital!
Here are a few examples of what are often called ‘transferable skills’ that are valuable to most any employer:
- Written and verbal communication
- Computer skills – general familiarity with the internet, a Windows environment, and well known software such as the Microsoft Office products
- Problem solving ability
- Ability to change and adapt to change
- Ability to learn new skills
- Customer Service experience
- Management/Supervisory experience
Although you do want to make sure you also communicate specific technical skills and concrete accomplishments on your resume, being able to demonstrate your ability to, for example:
— talk through a conflict constructively with a client,
— learn new software required to do your job (and maybe even train others on it later), or
— navigate a corporate merger and it’s multiple changes to policy and staffing are all a part of the core skills and adaptability that many employers expect – and therefore, could be transferable experiences to help you shift to new jobs or companies.
It’s often easier (and always more convincing) to explain your knack for problem solving, for example, with stories from past experiences that prove how you creatively found and implemented solutions to challenges.
Here’s an example: An administrative client of mine had organized the merger of several local real estate offices with a corporate brand that bought them out. This is a HUGE project and example of her organizational skills. We used that example to highlight her abilities for event planning, where she would ‘merge’ the efforts and processes of multiple vendors, services, and clients for large business events and conferences (aka like she did for her local offices with corporate.)
Share these examples during the interview, or in brief in a cover letter ‘teaser’ story. If you have experienced a restructuring of your department, or been in a company bought out by another, including a story of how you successfully adapted to those changes is usually quite valuable to a new employer in this ever changing, shifting new working world.
Employers want employees that are flexible and willing to change and grow with their organization, especially since human nature is to resist change and fight for stability.
Computer experience is necessary in almost every field nowadays, so demonstrating any and all computer software programs you know and to what level of proficiency is important to most employers.
During your job search if you have the opportunity to take a class to increase your computer skills, or practice your skills using tutorials at temporary agencies, a local community college, or local career center, by all means, do so. Investing in relevant education is always a good value. Showing you have learned a new program recently also communicates your willingness and ability to learn new skills – also transferable (and desireable) traits in most workplaces!
Remember to mention the other transferable skills that may be relevant to your new job and employer:
Customer service skills, leadership, organizational skills, initiative on the job, creating more efficient systems and processes, relationship building, and sales and negotiating skills are among the traits and experiences that have value in most any position.
Make sure you also have example stories of when you demonstrated your transferable skills and qualities to ‘prove’ your experiences. Just because you say you can doesn’t mean much – showing how and when you did in the past is much more persuasive and impressive.
One more example: Another client of mine wanted to take her 20 years of merchandising and management in a retail environment and apply to be an instructor in a fashion related trade school. In addition to all the skills and real world experience she could share with students, we also made sure to pull out aspects of her job that previously weren’t really on her resume – all the staff training she did opening 200+ new stores. During those store openings, she’d taught everything from merchandising the clothes & accessories to the register software and customer service and supervisory training to each store’s management team. It was important for her new career goal, teaching, to include all her related experience in a clear way on her ‘transition’ resume so the trade school hiring folks could see she was also an experienced teacher in addition to her career in retail. Highlighting all of these transferable skills sold her for a shift into teaching.
——- It’s commonplace and generic to say, “I’d be a great instructor, I love teaching.”
—->> It’s MUCH more convincing to talk about how my client actually taught hundreds of employees in their first jobs in a retail environment how to merchandise in clothing stores; it also shows she leadership skills to highlight her coaching & mentoring of store management. See how important it can be to showcase your transferable skills?
It can be tricky figuring out how to focus a new version of your resume on transferable skills when you want to shift job titles or industries.