What are Transferrable Skills? Can They Contribute to Career Success?

Careers
Posted By Terri Williams on May 31, 2017 at 7:17 am
What are Transferrable Skills? Can They Contribute to Career Success?

The average Baby Boomer had 11.7 jobs by the age of 48, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Subsequent generations are more likely to ponder the pros and cons of job-hopping, leading to an even higher tally. One key to successfully moving from one job to the next is the ability to develop transferrable skills.

Todd Lotcpeich, associate director of Employer Management and Alumni Relations at LIM College, tells GoodCall®, “Skills such as leadership, time management, and the ability to communicate effectively and solve problems are transferable skills that any employer will look for, regardless of industry.”

A checklist from the University of Toledo provides an extensive list of transferrable skills. Below are excerpts from the checklist:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Oral communication skills
  • Public speaking skills
  • Counseling skills
  • Coaching/mentoring skills
  • Teaching/training skills
  • Supervisory skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Persuasion skills
  • Negotiating skills
  • Customer service skills
  • Care-giving skills
  • Analytical/logical skills
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Planning skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Advanced writing skills
  • Research skills
  • Finance skills
  • Advanced computer skills
  • Mechanical skills
  • Administrative skills

However, it’s not enough to just have transferrable skills. You must be able to communicate them on your resume and cover letter, in an interview, or even in a conversation regarding a promotion or other opportunity for advancement. “For someone who may not have experience in a specific area, being able to recognize and articulate how what they have done in the past relates to what they would like to do in the future is very important,” Lotcpeich says. “Particularly, emphasizing how they have used specific skills to successful ends in previous situations can help close the gap with a competing candidate who may appear ‘more experienced’ on paper.”

Tips for developing and describing transferrable skills

College provides an excellent opportunity to develop a variety of transferrable skills. “College is an opportunity to become career-ready, and the college experience should develop transferable skills that stay with you throughout your career, regardless of your job or industry,” according to Bob LaBombard, retired CEO of Gradstaff. “While technologies and trends change – and some jobs do become obsolete – transferable skills are applicable throughout your entire career.”

However, college students need to do more than just go to class. Extra-curricular activities, such as joining a fraternity or sorority, becoming a part of the student government association, and/or participating in intramural sports are just some of the ways to develop transferrable skills. But don’t just join – take an active role, even assuming a leadership position if possible.

Organizations such as Toastmasters can help students build public speaking skills. Another way to develop skills while also gaining practice experience is by participating in internships. In addition, volunteering can boost job prospects while also providing opportunities for developing transferrable skills.

“Your goal as you look to secure that first job after graduation is to clearly define for potential employers the skills and abilities you will bring to them; in essence your value proposition,” LaBombard tells GoodCall®. “The best way to do this is by crafting a story or narrative that describes your unique set of life experiences, what you learned from both your successes as well as your mistakes, and the important decisions you made along the way.”

For example, instead of just saying (or writing) that you have customer service skills, explain how you’re able to gain a client’s or customer’s trust and solve complaints in a satisfactory manner. When describing leadership skills, explain how you motivate others, delegate, make decisions, assess skills, foster teamwork, and provide coaching and training when necessary.

If you have organizational skills, describe your ability to multitask (or not), explain your planning process and how you manage time and meet deadlines.

“The ability to combine industry-specific knowledge with transferable skills – and using that combined knowledge to solve problems – is a highly desirable skill set for employers in any field,” LaBombard says. “Everyone, including interviewers, loves a great story, so create yours: test it out on parents, professors, and friends. Then, get to work finding that great job.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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