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Your checklist to identifying transferable skills

By Ana Isabel Alonsagay

Switching careers can be an often daunting task, with many typically reflecting on the skills and experience they need to make the jump.

It’s here where your transferable skills come in – assets that can bolster your potential in any role, regardless of sector. Applicable to most positions, these abilities can often hold greater value than that of most technical skills.

Below, we explore the benefits of transferable skills, how to take stock of yours, and how to successfully sell them in an interview. 

What are transferable skills? 

Transferable skills are abilities that can easily be applied to any role or business, regardless of industry. They allow one to easily change careers when necessary, as they’re flexible enough to benefit employers of any field. 

Such skills include the ability to communicate, lead, organise, critically analyse situations, and collaborate with a diverse range of people. Demand for these transferable skill sets has all the more risen amidst the COVID-19 landscape; while opportunities in tourism and hospitality began to dwindle, there was a significant boom in demand among other fields such as construction, customer service, coaching, and real estate. 

These sectors don’t necessarily require a degree or tertiary education, but rather the right transferable soft skills (such as interpersonal and communication skills) to do the job. 

How to identify your transferable skills

  1. Self-analysis.
  2. Categorise them into people, organisation and leadership skills.
  3. Check compatibility with your chosen career paths.

1. Self-analysis. 

Identifying your transferable skills starts with a little self-reflection. Career coach and The Guardian contributor, Elizabeth Bacchus, recommends assessing four key areas: 
  • What you love to do
  • Key aspects you’re good at
  • Your personal qualities and traits
  • Specific job experiences

Think back on all the previous work experience you’ve accumulated; what strengths and knowledge have you built during that time? What successes were you recognised for? What specific personality traits played a part in these successes? How did you overcome common challenges? 

Once you’ve built yourself a comprehensive list, separate the technical abilities from the soft skills. The latter are your transferable assets – skills easily applicable across varying fields and industries. 

2. Categorise them into people, organisation, and leadership skills.

colleagues speaking to each other

Now that you’ve identified your transferable skills, take stock of your strengths and weaknesses by categorising them into people, organisational, and leadership abilities. 

People skills

People skills will typically involve the ability to communicate with others, collaborate among teams, adapt to new situations and extend empathy when necessary. They define the abilities that help you get along with others and forge lasting professional relationships. As businesses continue to place an ever-growing importance on team culture, one’s people skills will remain in-demand for years to come, regardless of your sector.

Organisational skills

Your organisational skills refer to your ability to prepare, plan and execute tasks with efficiency. These typically include one’s time management, financial management, administration abilities (i.e. filing, paperwork, appointment-setting, etc.), and your ability to plan ahead of time. They help set the stage for your performance in any role, and are thus valuable among any employer.

Leadership skills

Finally, leadership skills encompass abilities in delegation, prioritisation, critical thinking, creativity, and the ability to motivate others to success. They’re the abilities that enable you to manage teams effectively, helping build their drive to achieve both short and long-term business goals. 

Of course, this isn’t a definitive list – certain technical skills can also be “transferable” depending on the career paths you plan to pursue. For example, software development skills may not be as applicable when switching to a role in hospitality – but are valuable when moving between various sectors in the IT industry. 

3. Check compatibility with your chosen career paths.

Now that you’ve got an organised checklist, it’s time to map these skills to the career paths you’re after. 

Take the time to research the job descriptions of your desired roles and assess which of your transferable skills can be applied to these positions. It may even help to get in contact with someone from the same career path you’re interested in. They may be able to confirm which of your transferable skill sets are applicable to the job – along with other nice-to-haves that can possibly grant you a competitive edge. 

At this stage, you may also discover certain skills gaps. Perhaps you excel in people skills, though you may need to work on your organisational abilities. You may have a plethora of innovative, creative ideas, but perhaps need to brush up on your style of communication. It may thus be worth considering upskilling in these areas (i.e. through a leadership, management, or business course) to further broaden your transferable skill sets. 

How to sell your transferable skills in an interview?

  1. Start with your resume.
  2. Use specific examples.
  3. Discuss other key skills you're keen to learn. 

1. Start with your resume. 

Leveraging your transferable skills for a potential job offer starts with highlighting them in your resume and cover letter. Showcase them from the get-go by tailoring your application according to the needs of the job description, aligning the skills you mention with those highlighted in the ad.

With plenty of employers now using applicant tracking systems (ATS) – software designed to scan for keywords in a candidate’s application – it’s also worth mirroring the wording of specific ads in your resume. 

Chances are, if a job description mentions “management experience”, the recruiter has included this term in the ATS process. Replicating these phrases in your application can thus bump your chances of getting shortlisted.

2. Use specific examples. 

job interview

When mentioning your transferable skills during an interview, it’s important to provide specific evidence for how you’ve gained and use them. For example, if you’re selling yourself as someone with “excellent customer service”, you may want to refer to previous experience in retail or sales – and how you’ve used these skills to make a difference in the company. 

Having a wide range of transferable skills can also be useful when asked about an area you have little to no experience in. You can refer to another, similar skill you have as an alternative – one that can possibly help you gain the experience you need in said area. For example, while you may have zero knowledge of cloud computing, you may be a fast learner with previous experience in networking; qualities that can help you build the skills you need for the cloud. 

3. Discuss other key skills you’re keen to learn.

Finally, there’s no harm in mentioning other skills you hope to learn in the role. This effectively paints you as a motivated worker with an eagerness to learn – a transferable skill in itself. A candidate may have all the technical skills required for a role, but without the initiative to do better and learn as they go, employers may struggle to work or collaborate with them down the road. 

Thus, be sure to showcase your potential by selling yourself as a quick, motivated learner, helping employers envision your future success in the company. 

As mentioned, taking stock of your transferable skills may highlight a few gaps here and there. Upskilling is often recommended to not only build the broad skill sets you need for any industry – but to also hone on the specific, technical experience required of your particular dream role. 

With Upskilled, individuals will find a wide variety of training courses across Australia’s most in-demand fields; from sectors in IT to areas in business and management. Best of all, each course is delivered online, helping you train according to your specific needs and schedule.
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