by Robin Porter
Did you know that most people will have at least three different careers during their working life? And, as you might expect, many of the skills used in one job will be transferable to another.
Transferable skills are skills and abilities that are relevant and helpful across different areas of life—academically, professionally, and socially. These “portable” skills can make the difference between getting the job you want and being passed over. While technical skills are important, employers place a very high value on these softer skills because they are difficult, if not impossible, to teach on the job.
The good news is that you’ve acquired many transferable skills throughout your life—from home, school, jobs, and even social interactions. So, while you may think that a lack of industry-specific experience will prevent you from getting a job, that is not always the case. This is especially true as you look for your first real job when many employers are looking at potential versus experience.
The Top Five
There are certain transferable skills that employers recognize as being present in the most effective employees. In fact, many employers use some form of psychometric testing in the interview process, which assesses a candidate’s personality type and interpersonal skills. That’s because these skills are valuable in all industries.
While there are many transferable skills, industry experts have consistently named the following skills as the most important when considering a candidate’s overall potential:
- The ability to work effectively in a group or team. Many positions will require you to work as part of a team to achieve goals. By demonstrating your ability to work well with others through examples on your resume or cover letter, you reassure employers that you will “fit in” and offer valuable contributions to the team. You can use examples from previous work experience, team projects in schools, sports teams, or even social groups.
- The ability to lead others. Even if you’re not applying for a leadership position. you may be asked to take the lead in certain situations. Leadership skills are also key to moving up within an organization (remember, they are looking at your potential!). Of course, being a good leader involves many skills, such as knowing how to motivate others, take responsibility for actions, and delegate tasks, to name just a few. Offer some examples of situations where you took a leadership role and accomplished a goal.
- The ability to multitask (organization and time management skills). While the ability to multi-task is considered one of the most desirable skills in today’s digital world, numerous studies also show that multi-tasking is causing a great deal of frustration and stress in the workplace. The people who manage to do it effectively (without having a meltdown!) are those that understand how to manage their time and have strong organizational skills. In other words, successful multi-tasking requires establishing priorities, planning, and organizing tasks, and then managing your time well. You can demonstrate these abilities by mentioning occasions when you’ve structured and arranged resources to achieve objectives, planned and executed an event or large project, or met a series of deadlines. For instance, how did you manage your coursework with extracurricular activities?
- The ability to communicate effectively — both verbally and in written form. Remember that communication involves both listening and conveying ideas clearly. Even if the position you’re applying for is highly technical, most jobs require some type of written and verbal communication. Your resume and cover letter provide one example of your writing skills (so make sure they are free of errors, as well as clear and concise), and an interview can demonstrate your listening and verbal skills. But what other evidence can you supply? Do you have experience producing reports or marketing materials? Have you contributed to articles or written an essay that you’re proud of? Have you given presentations or used your communication skills to inspire or motivate a group? Did you take a public speaking course?
- The ability to be creative. You don’t have to be an artist or take up crafts to be creative! The type of creativity that employers look for has more to do with your ability to see patterns within challenges and come up with solutions. Lots of people have ideas, but creative people know how to bring those ideas to life. It also involves critical thinking or problem-solving skills. If you think about it, you’ve been developing problem-solving skills your entire life! Try to highlight examples of being faced with a challenge, asked critical questions, brainstormed ideas, decided on a course of action, and then made it happen.
These are just some of the transferable skills that will help you land the right job and succeed throughout your career. Remember that employers aren’t looking for just one or two of these skills, but a combination of them. When applying for a job, you should highlight the transferable skills that are most relevant to the position but don’t be afraid to provide examples of others, especially if they represent your strengths.
Most importantly, keep developing your abilities. These transferable skills will apply in all professions and provide the foundation for whatever careers you pursue over the years.
College Recruiter believes that every student and recent graduate deserves a great career. Over the course of a year, about 2.5 million students and recent graduates use our site to find part-time, seasonal, internship, and entry-level jobs. Our customers are primarily Fortune 1,000 companies, government agencies, and other employers that hire at scale, meaning dozens, hundreds, or even thousands a year.