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New Year, new you: identifying your transferable skills

By Rosa Ritchie | 02 January 2019

It’s a brand, spanking New Year and it’s full of possibilities. Have a quick think back to the last year of your life, and identify how much you have achieved in that time. So often we forget to pat ourselves on the back and take stock of everything that we have done.
There are bound to be professional and personal things that you want to achieve in the new year. The good news is that it is possible to gain a better job role by taking stock of your transferrable skills.

Identifying transferable skills 

  1. Make your old skills seem “new” again.
  2. What is a transferable skill?
  3. How to define your transferable skills.
  4. What are “hard” skills?

1. Make your old skills seem “new” again.

You may see transferable skills mentioned in job advertisements or applications, but what does that term really mean? The good news is we all have transferable skills, whether we realise it or not. If you’re keen to make your resume stand out or you’re determined to impress during a job interview, it’s worth sitting down to consider what your transferable skills are and the myriad ways you might apply them.

New Year, new you: identifying your transferable skills
A lot of job advertisements list prior industry experience as a pre-requisite. For instance, a clothing retailer may be looking for shop assistants with 3+ years experience in clothing retail. However, if you’ve worked in a service industry and you have personal or educational experience that exemplifies your eye for fashion or design it is still worth applying. The key is to define your transferable skillset and convincingly argue the merit of your experience.
So, this New Year, decide to learn how to define your transferable skills and understand where you can apply them.

2. What is a transferable skill?

The beauty of transferable skills is that they aren’t necessarily acquired in a formal learning or work environment. Rather than task specific skills, transferable skills are applicable in a variety of contexts. For instance, a chef knows how to make a delicious red wine reduction but that is not a transferable skill. However, a chef also has the ability to work efficiently in a high-pressure environment and that is a wonderful transferable skill.

Look at “old” life experience and how this can apply to “new” situations

Where else might someone learn the ability to work efficiently under pressure? This transferable skill could be acquired volunteering, playing sport or successfully completing high school examinations. In order to identify your transferable skill-set think about your life experience, areas where you have been challenged and areas you have succeeded.

New Year, new you: identifying your transferable skills

This could be in the workplace or your personal life. Do you play sports or have you volunteered? Do you look after a family? What have you studied? Do you have hobbies or creative pursuits? All of these areas of your life can enrich your resume with transferable skills.

3. How to define your transferable skills.

In order to figure out what transferable skills you possess you must look particularly closely at your soft skills. To return to the example of a chef, they might have advanced knife skills but these are hard skills. Not hard in the sense that they are difficult (although they might be) but in the sense that they are vocationally specific and unmalleable. Some soft skills a restuarant manager possesses are: time management, multi-tasking, efficiency, attention to detail and the ability to delegate and work effectively within a team.

Some more examples of soft skills:

  • Communication
  • Organisation
  • Teamwork
  • Work ethic
  • Problem solving
  • Flexibility
  • Memory
  • Leadership
  • Determination 
For instance, a parent has a variety of transferable skills that no university or workplace could practically teach. Parents learn patience, multi-tasking, work ethic and compassion. Athletes know how to work in a team and have great self-discipline. If you’ve worked in hospitality you know how to prioritise and multi-task and you have well-practiced short-term memory.

4. What are “hard” skills?

But there are also some hard skills that are definitely transferable: speaking a foreign language, fast typing speed, ability to work different software and programmes like Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Suite. Digital literacy (comprehension of social media outlets, marketing strategies, photography, digital design etc.) is a highly sought after transferable skill.

Look at your current skills in the New Year and build on them

A useful way of gaining perspective on your skillset is to look at the selection criteria listed in job advertisements for the role you are currently performing and the position you would like to one day possess. Compare these advertisements for similarities or differences and this will help you understand what transferable skills they’re looking for and whether you currently possess them.

New Year, new you: identifying your transferable skills
If you’re a student another way to locate your transferable skills is to look at the unit outline for subjects you’ve studied with Upskilled, at university or TAFE and their desired outcomes. If one course lists critical reflection or close reading as a desired learning outcome, you can list those highly transferable skills on your resume.

Imagine old skills could be useful in new contexts

The key to convincing a selection panel that you have the skills they’re looking for is to explain why your talents will be useful to the job. Rather than simply listing your skills, elaborating on why they will come in handy lets your potential employer know you understand the responsibilities of the role.
And if you’re not sure, it never hurts to ask. Shoot them an email asking a few questions about the advertised position; this will show you’re eager, engaged and it will help you tailor your resume. By listing your relevant transferable skills and their uses you are exemplifying your knowledge or understanding of the demands and responsibilities that will be placed upon the successful applicant.

Could an online course give you the skills you need?

New skills for the new year might have helped you figure out what your transferable skills are and how they will assist you in making an exciting career transition in 2019 and beyond.
If you are serious about shifting your career path, studying a relevant vocational qualification is also hugely beneficial to your prospects. Feel free to chat to us here at Upskilled about where you are, where you want to go, and how we can help you get there. Good luck, may 2019 be a year of new horizons!
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