How Transferable Skills are the best, powerful, and proven key to changing careers

Last Updated on 28th June 2021 by Freddie Chirgwin-Bell

“But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. “

We all know the quote from Taken by now. You might not have Liam Neeson’s skill set but you could have skills that are still very valuable.

If you’re going for a promotion, changing jobs, or updating your CV, you need to focus on your skills.

With that in mind, the most valuable of these skills are your transferable skills.

The clue is in the name. These skills are essential across jobs, careers, and industries. Even hobbies and daily life they work.

So what are your skills?

What are transferable skills?

Transferable skills are skills. They’re skills you have built and achieved over your career, education, hobbies, life etc.

If a skill can work across different jobs, industries, or careers, then it’s transferrable. Depending on the job or industry these can be technical skills or broad skills.

Technical Skills? These are things such as computing languages, using specialist equipment, etc. 

Broad skills are sometimes called soft skills. These are skills such as leadership, communication and the like.

What makes them transferable is a simple question “is it relevant to the job or industry I am applying for?”

You might have built these skills up in different roles. So think carefully about the skills and experience you have and see if they apply to the new role you’re going for.

Understand that there may be lots of very few, but highlight the most effective ones.

Not all will fit the particular job you’re after though. Some may be role-specific (a nice shiny technical certificate, or experience with software). Some may not apply at all (being able to juggle or eat fire).

The most common examples you’ll find are:

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Time management
  • Digital skills
  • Collaboration
  • Flexibility

But also think about it like this, the most important skills to include on your CV according to TopCV are:

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Problem-solving
  • Organisation
  • Time management
  • Motivation/Resilience
  • Adaptability
  • Creative/Critical thinking

I’m sure you’ve noticed the lists are almost identical, that’s because these skills are perfect for any and every job.

But, these are guidelines. They may not apply to you and you may have skills that are much more applicable to the role.

Once you’re good at identifying your transferable skills, you will see they can apply to lots of jobs. Stay open-minded about how you can combine your skills, as there are likely to be many possibilities.

If you’re seeking a career change, knowing your transferable skills can enable you to think ‘outside the box’ of your past experience and identify new opportunities. As a job seeker, you can also use specific examples to impress recruiters in competency-based interviews.

Why are transferable skills important?

Aside from specific experience the most commonly sought after skills are soft skills. Skills that transcend every industry such as communication, leadership, organisation, time management and more.

Yes, although these are harder to quantify, they are vitally important to businesses.

In short, transferable skills are incredibly valuable to employers!

Not only do they show that you’d be a good fit for the team, but they can also prove what a candidate can bring to a role, and how much they’ve learnt from previous positions or experiences.

So if you’re currently lacking experience in the field you’re looking for work in, transferable skills can be a great way to highlight why you’re right for the role. Examples of when this can be helpful include entry-level positions, and those looking to change careers.

To find out more about how to make the most of your transferable skills, read our career change CV template.

Examples of common transferrable skills

Although this is by no means a comprehensive list, here are some great examples of transferable skills you can use in your CV:

Leadership

Being a leader is very important. We even wrote a whole blog about it. It’s a great skill to develop especially if you’re going for management jobs or want to lead large teams. 

Have a think about times you took the initiative and led a project, could be small but all you need to do is show that you are capable of working with others and ensuring everyone gets their part done.

Other things that you can write about that show leadership could be motivating others to achieve a shared goal, leading a project, running training and development, or even through your hobbies like being a team captain for a football team.

Leadership, like a lot of the skills we mentioned, doesn’t work alone. There are other skills like communication, problem-solving, and collaboration that all support and give more evidence of your leadership.

Communication

Good at talking? This could be a big skill for you.

When we say communication, what we mean isn’t only talking. It’s also writing, emails, texts, making sure everyone understands what they have to do, and more.

One of the most requested soft skills in job interviews is exceptional communication. Why? It saves time, it saves on money, and it reduces the number of issues that happen.

Being a clear, efficient, communicator – getting your message across with ease – will be one of the greatest transferrable skills you can have.

This will also include listening. Being able to show a time you listened carefully, and then reacted to it, will emphasise your communication skills even more.

Communication is most common in customer service industries, but it’s a skill that is versatile and important to every role.

Time management

Time management is a vital skill. Not only for work but also for life. Keeping on top of your tasks proves you can work to deadlines. That’s something a lot of businesses look for. 

So how do you stay organised? Do you create to-do lists? Delegate? Ask for help? Or do you break up large projects?

Whether it’s that you’ve had experience stacking shelves within a set time in a retail store, you’ve completed projects within a deadline, or you’ve carried out construction work that met the time-sensitive needs of a client, you’ll have at least one example of time management to reference in your CV.

Prioritisation

Prioritising tasks effectively is essential if you want to get anything done, on time, and to a high standard. That’s why it’s a key skill that the vast majority of employers value.

Prove you’re able to assess your workload, adjust your schedule, and organise tasks in order of importance by giving tangible examples in your CV. For example, it could be that your ability to be ruthless and say no to certain tasks enabled you to complete others that had a higher level of importance, or you implemented time-saving techniques to get small tasks done faster (e.g. spreadsheets, templates).

Delegation

Whilst delegation is primarily important for managers, supervisors, or anyone in a senior position, that doesn’t mean those without a background in management aren’t able to show this skill.

For example, if you’ve ever mentored or tutored someone (whether it was at work or school), or trained another colleague in a particular system, procedure, or task, you’ll be able to prove you could be a good delegator. It’s all about how you frame your skills, the examples you give, and how you link back to the criteria specified in the job description.

Research & analysis 

Researching and being able to analyse data or situations is a great skill. It’s also a skill that a lot of managerial positions look for. Being able to crunch the numbers or analyse a situation and come up with solutions will give you an edge over other candidates.

The examples you include may differ depending on the role and what’s required (particularly if the vacancy calls for harder skills, e.g. knowledge of Google Analytics), but a basic level of research and analysis skills can be shown in anything from university essays, to any form of gathering, organising, and evaluating information – whether it’s sales figures, website visits, or technical reports.

Transfer Skills – Upgrade Your CV

Your skills are not just once and done. You’re constantly improving them, expanding on them, learning new ones. Showing these off on your CV is a great idea. Keep a close eye on these skills, emphasise them on your CV, get ahead in your career.

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