Uncover your Transferable Skills to Open Career Opportunities!

Posted by Amanda Wencel on Friday, July 22nd, 2016

Recently I worked with a client to help identify a focused career transition plan through self-assessment and skills recognition.  Her work history was in accounting administration, however she was finding herself stagnated.  She had always stayed in the same field, because she felt that was her only choice with the experience that she had gained.

What she didn’t recognize is that she had developed so many other transferable skills that would benefit her when applying for different types of positions. So we made a list of skills that she possessed that could be used more comprehensively.  The way we did this list was looking at a job posting for a position she was interested in applying for.  First we discussed all of the job-related skills that matched her knowledge and experience.  Then I had her list the top 5-7 soft skills that the posting referred to.  From there, she had to look at her own transferable skills list and figure out how many of hers matched up with those top ones that the posting identified.  She was able to match up with 4 out of 5 of the most critical soft skills that the position was looking for.  Then I had her come up with examples of how she could prove that she had developed this skill.  

For example the posting stated they were looking for someone who possessed excellent oral and written communication.

Here are some questions that helped her prove that she had developed this skill:

• How many people work in your team, and how do you communicate with them about issues?  Do you have regular meetings?  Have you ever chaired or taken minutes for meetings?
• How often are you in contact with the public?  Is there a time that you dealt particularly well with a customer or a company stakeholder?
• Have you ever done any public speaking or given presentations?  In the past, how have you been able to confidently convey messages to groups of people?
• In your work team, did you ever have to persuade someone into trying a new process that they were apprehensive about?  How did you encourage them to trust you? 
• Have you written any articles, blogs, reports that can demonstrate your writing abilities and style?  Have you been commended for any presentations that you created that would demonstrate your creative abilities with communicating ideas?

Coming up with examples of actual times where her communication skills excelled gave her the confidence that this particular soft skill was one that she could use in any field, or in any position.  Continuing on with her list, she was able to demonstrate many transferable skills that directly matched with what the employer was looking for and apply for a position that she normally would not have felt comfortable applying for. 

When looking at your transferable skills, they may not be as easy to distinguish as those that are more job-related.  However, if you can accurately portray both, your options open significantly.  These skills do not necessarily need to come from your employment history.  They can be skills that you have developed through volunteer work, community involvement, professional associations, formal and informal training, etc.

Once you’ve made your list of transferable skills, it is crucial to be able to prove these skills with experience.  You will want to include these examples in your resume, your cover letter and in networking.  You will be asked questions in interviews that are directly related to these skills, and so it is important to have a list of examples ready explaining how you utilized these skills in your everyday life/work.  Think about ways that these skills have had a benefit to the company you were working for, or the organization you were volunteering with, etc. 

Quintessential Careers breaks down transferrable skills into five basic categories of transferable skills sets that people can use to identify skills that are relevant from one type of employment to the next.  This is just one great resource to assist you in identifying your transferable skills: https://www.livecareer.com/quintessential/transferable-skills-set

Another good article to assist in unearthing your transferable skills is http://www.skillsyouneed.com/general/transferable-skills.html, where they state “most people will have at least 3 different careers during their working life and many of the skills used in one will be transferable to another”.

Test it out – you’ll be surprised that you can change occupations if you communicate your transferable skills effectively.


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