What Are Transferable Skills?

Written by Steven Marwick
Author

People often talk about the importance of transferable skills in the workplace but the term sounds like just another corporate buzzword and many people don’t actually know what is meant by it. Transferable skills are the kind that you develop throughout your education and working life, and are neither subject nor job specific. 

This means that you can apply them to new jobs and situations as and when required. Many of these are worth mentioning on covering letters when applying to new jobs as they are valuable to employers. A good way to think about transferable skills is as tools on a belt that you carry with you from job to job throughout your career. 

Forbes says the following on the subject: “They are known as transferable skills because no matter what the job or profession is, they make the difference between success and failure.”

Some examples of these skills are included below. 

Examples of Transferable Skills

Problem Solving

The ability to encounter a new problem and work out the best way to resolve it, quickly and efficiently is something that many employers need more of and this is a skill that people can develop and hone over a number of different jobs throughout their working life. Being able to identify that there is a problem in the first place is a skill and so is suggesting and implementing a solution to the problem. If we have already encountered such problems during our careers, then we will be used to using a problem solving mindset. 

Critical Thinking

Being able to analyse situations for yourself, extracting the most important points and then actioning them in an appropriate manner is the essence of critical thinking. Being able to work independently in this way and not needing to be spoon-fed how to proceed can take a lot of pressure off line-managers and reduce their inclination to micro-manage, which will also make your work life easier and less stressful.

Adaptability

The ability to easily change the type of role that you do and the processes involved in getting it done and pivot seamlessly to another way of working can be a game changer in fast-paced workplaces. This is not something that everyone will feel comfortable doing. There are many people who find changes difficult and prefer to keep the comfort of the same routine. Some even feel like they need the familiarity of routine in order to be able to adequately focus on their job. Those who possess this skill are well-placed to face the myriad challenges of the modern workplace.

Teamwork

The ability to thrive as part of a team and play your part in wider team efforts is a prized skill in many workplaces. There are people who find being part of a team has its own unique challenges and prefer to work alone than with others. There are also those who feel like they are at their best when bouncing ideas off other people and going back and forth with them on how best to bring the project they are working on to fruition. There are obviously many people who fall somewhere in these extremes as well. If you are a good team player and can get things done well as part of a team, this is a valued skill. 

Communication

Communicating well can be another transferable skill that is in high demand. This covers in-person, video and phone calls and in writing via emails etc. If you are proficient in all of these areas and can make yourself well understood without falling out with people or getting their backs up then you are likely to be a very welcome addition to many workplaces.

Relationship Building

Building relationships or networking both inside and outwith the company can help you to perform at your best and the ability to do this consistently can see excellent results. Taking the time to show interest in others and to persuade them to help you when required is a soft skill, and is one that is sometimes quite underrated. It is something that can see your request pushed to the top of the pile because the person you have asked likes you and wants to remain in your good graces, and this can be a real lifesaver at times. Being nice to people and building interpersonal relationships can really improve and turbo charge your working life. 

Leadership

Some people are natural born leaders and can persuade people to do what they want with very little effort. To see people with true leadership skills doing what they do can be quite eye-opening. They aren’t the people barking orders and expecting others to follow them, they are often the ones who will talk to others and ask if they can achieve a certain task for them, showing them trust and inspiring them to do better when they are having a difficult time. Good leadership means people follow and do the things you ask of them because they want to please you and not disappoint you, rather than just because they have to.

Computer Skills

It seems like these days a great many people have a good level of computer skills. There are some people who have stand-out computer skills over and above the normal and (for example) can touch-type. This tends to help their typing speed outmatch most of their colleagues, and it means they can get more done in a shorter space of time. Being able to type at closer to the speed that you think is obviously a skill that is very useful to employers and should be mentioned in a covering letter. 

Creativity

This particular transferable skill is sometimes overlooked but creativity isn’t all about music and art, it can often be quite closely tied to problem solving. If you can find creative or new ways to do something that had been done in a less efficient way before then this is a real, tangible skill that is needed in many workplaces. Too many people just accept how things have been working without thinking about how the workflow could be improved in order to ensure everything runs more smoothly. Creative people with this kind of idea are more likely to be promoted to managerial level at some point. 

What Comes Next?

Taking stock of the transferable skills that you already have can be a good start when thinking about a career change. We have a useful jobs board for people who are in this position as well as many hints and tips, including help with CV updating and cover letter writing. We also have information on tips for confidence and refreshing your skills for a new career. 

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