Transferrable skills (also known as “soft skills”) are those that you already possess that can be transferred to any new job you are applying for. Whether the position is in the same field doing similar work or in an entirely different area, employers are looking for candidates to bring with them the kind of skills and personal qualities that will ensure success in the new job.
THE MAJOR CATEGORIES OF TRANSFERRABLE SKILLS
There are dozens of transferrable skills that a person might possess. The following list is not meant to be comprehensive but should give you a good idea of the kinds of skills an employer is hoping you will bring to the job.
Communication – Whether you’re a graphic designer, a human resources professional or an accountant the ability to communicate with all levels at work is an asset held in high regard by all employers.
Teamwork – Very few of us operate in a vacuum. We work with others every day on an ongoing basis. The ability to work with teams is vitally important to almost every workplace.
Critical Thinking – The ability to objectively analyze and evaluate an issue is a key goal in many work situations.
Leadership – Leaders demonstrate that they are able to motivate others to achieve common goals. It is a quality hiring managers look for even in non-managerial job candidates.
Organization – people who are well organized are able to plan and prioritize their work to achieve their goals.
Listening – The ability to listen and understand instructions as well as the needs of others helps ensure a smooth-running organization that gets things done.
Dependability – the qualities of reliability and trustworthiness are hallmarks of a great employee.
Technical Competence – Nowadays, everyone is expected to have a certain level of technical competence. We’re not talking about the ability to write code but rather to understand how to use technology, especially applications such as Microsoft Office or Google Docs.
EXAMPLES OF TRANSFERRABLE SKILLS
In this section I’ll show some examples of the transferrable skills outlined in the various categories above, featuring a further explanation of one of the examples from each category.
Responsiveness – Great communicators are always prepared to respond to others whether by email, phone, or in person. They make a point of getting back as soon as possible to those who have a question, thought or idea. They differentiate themselves from those who are slow to respond or do not bother to respond at all. Responsiveness is greatly appreciated in the workplace.
Teamwork skills include – collaboration, communication, friendliness, ability to work together, actively listening, willingness to share expertise/experience, trust, and openness to suggestion.
Trust – Teams whose members trust one another will succeed. Sharing responsibility, handing off assignments to other members, and showing respect all around will help the team achieve its goal faster and more effectively.
Critical Thinking skills include – analysis, interpretation, problem solving, open mindedness and decision making.
Analysis – Analysis or analytical thinking involves the interpretation and understanding of data (in any form) to help make the right decisions and reach the right conclusions.
Leadership skills include – effective communication, honesty, awareness, relationship building, boldness and humility.
Awareness – staying informed about the major issues that impact your company and its business operations is one aspect of awareness. Being ready to take appropriate actions to address problems as they arise, requires the right level of awareness.
Organization skills include – delegation, keeping deadlines, team management, scheduling, decision making, and goal setting.
Delegation – setting tasks and expectations for each member of the team requires the ability to comprehend each person’s ability to understand the assignment and their capacity for taking it on and completing it within the stated time-frame.
Listening skills include – paying attention, providing immediate feedback, responding appropriately, and showing encouragement.
Paying attention – show interest in what the speaker is saying to you, especially if you are an audience of one. If you don’t pay attention, you may miss a vital piece of information that might have a negative effect on you and/or your work goals.
Dependability skills include – being on time, respecting deadlines, supporting coworkers, showing up for work every day, making and keeping commitments and being predictable.
Supporting coworkers – coworkers and teammates must be able to support one another. Dependable employees can always be counted on to support their coworkers when deadlines and work goals are on the line.
Technical Competence skills include – understanding the business applications in use by the employer, being proficient in those applications, and learning to use new applications.
Learning to use new applications – business is moving at near light speed these days. New applications for use on the job seem to appear almost weekly. Of course, not everything that is new will be used by the company, but one has to be ready to learn which ones are important and how they work.
ACING THE INTERVIEW – C.A.R. STORIES USING TRANSFERRABLE SKILLS
Now that we have looked at several types of transferrable skills, it’s time to think about which of these skills you own, and how they may have come into play during your career. Of course, not everything listed will be a great fit, but certainly you should be able to think of how you applied such skills to your advantage as well as that of your current/former employers. If you are just starting out on your career, these skills may have been used at school, in sports, as a volunteer or in other aspects of your life.
Let’s look at a few examples of C.A.R, stories that show how job candidates applied their transferrable skills to arrive at positive outcomes for both themselves and their employers.
Example #1 – Communication
At my previous employer we received several complaints by staff that they had been receiving sexually-explicit emails at work. These employees were extremely uncomfortable and were concerned about their personal safety. As human resources manager, I was tasked to investigate the allegations and eventually the harassers were identified and ultimately terminated for their behavior. Using my communications skills, I took two steps:
- I spoke directly to the people who were harassed, explaining the steps that we took in our investigation and its final outcome, ensuring them that going forward the company will work very hard to prevent any further problems in this area. I was able to get their buy-in that the company was doing the right thing.
- I initiated a training program on sexual harassment for the entire organization. I developed a full training module on harassment and sexual harassment, created a power-point presentation, and personally conducted training for 600 employees over a three-week period. The program was clear on the facts and the harms caused by harassment, showed empathy to all employees that were victims of any type of harassment, and responded to the many questions raised by employees during the training. Overall, my efforts were very well received by senior management and the training program itself became the model for future staff training in a number of different subject areas.
Example #2 – Organization
When I started with my new company several years ago, it had been using an outdated process for managing its large national sales division. They were concerned that sales were falling off due to the lack of proper controls. I was given the responsibility of putting together a team to develop an automated approach to this problem. Although I was not an expert in this field, I had brought with me a strong set of organizational skills. I was initially assigned an employee with the right background in this field, and he made a huge impact on my knowledge of the area. Then I brought in others from sales, accounting, and project management to round out the team. Using my organizational skills, I delegated tasks, set goals and deadlines and managed weekly meetings. Within six months a prototype system was developed and once the final system was rolled out at nine months, the company began to see an almost immediate impact to the bottom line. Sales increased nearly 15 percent compared to the previous year.
SHOWCASING YOUR TRANSFERRABLE SKILLS
Showcasing your transferrable skills is another way to get them recognized and to influence those who would be making a hiring decision about you. Showcasing these skills may be the differentiator between you and other job candidates.
What exactly is meant by showcasing? It is a way of marketing yourself and your skills that go beyond your resume or cover letter. What if you could reference your own website, featuring your own interesting and useful blogs on subjects you know a lot about? What if you gave webinars in areas of your expertise? What if you started your own consulting business offering to help others with their business, financial or technical problems?
Think of how hiring managers and other decision makers would look at a candidate who offered to share their knowledge and transferrable skills in such dynamic and meaningful ways. You would certainly standout from the crowd.
As an example, let’s say one of your transferrable skills is communication. You are good at presentations and getting your point across to others. You also have subject matter expertise in your field. Think about how you might develop a presentation on your subject area and how you might turn it into a webinar that others would benefit from. Once you have developed your program, approach groups that like to hear from experts in their field (e.g. local chambers of commerce, networking groups, local business organizations, church groups, etc.) and offer to present the subject to its members. You would be surprised at how many of these groups are looking for speakers to round out their meetings.
You would then be able to feature this skill in your job search, helping you to stand out to prospective employers.
If you like to write, your expertise can be featured in a blog or blogs that you post to your own or on other websites whose interests are closely aligned with yours. Your resume can feature the blogs with links directly in them. In this way the reader will see a different side of you and your approach to issues or problems of mutual interest. They can also become talking points in your interviews with hiring managers.
Showcasing is an exciting and innovative way to help you to stand out to prospective employers as someone who is capable, interesting and energetic.
Transferrable skills are extremely valuable. Never underestimate there power to influence a hiring manager and to differentiate you from the other candidates. Also, these skills are not meant to be exclusively for the job interview. They can easily be listed in your resume and mentioned in your cover letter. Very often a shortened version of a C.A.R. story involving these skills, when appearing in your resume could directly lead to your getting that all-important job interview.
About the author:
Stuart Weiner works with small to medium-sized medical practices to help them develop and maintain strong compliance programs that will enable them to meet their obligations under both federal and state healthcare regulations.