The job market is very competitive, which is why it’s really important for candidates looking for a job to understand what will help them stand out when applying for a role.
With fewer roles up for grabs, and people more frequently reassessing their personal or professional ambitions, it’s likely that job seekers may apply for a position outside of their usual profession.
In this article we provide some practical advice on how to understand and articulate your transferable skills to increase your chances of being considered for your next big opportunity.
So, what are transferable skills?
Transferable skills are the abilities we acquire through experiences, education, and even hobbies that can be applied to different contexts. Think of them as your skillset Swiss army knife that can be used across different job positions.
Here's an example: Let's say you’ve been in operations roles and are seeking a transition into project management. While the specific job tasks may differ, you can highlight your transferable skills such as excellent communication, problem-solving, and time management. These skills are valuable and relevant in both roles, allowing you to effectively collaborate with team members, address challenges, and deliver projects within deadlines.
Despite the term being widely used, many candidates struggle with identifying and articulating their transferable skills. This happens because they underestimate their own abilities or fail to recognise how certain skills can be applied in various settings. As a candidate, it’s important to reflect on your experiences, analyse the skills you’ve gained, and practice expressing them in a way that resonates with potential employers.
Employers value transferable skills
Here’s the good news: employers value transferable skills! Here’s why:
Competition for talent has forced companies to look beyond traditional talent pools and consider candidates from unrelated professions.
Bringing in new hires from other professions helps boost the diversity of skillsets and perspectives within the team.
Adaptability has become a highly sought-after skill, and who is more adaptable than a new hire stepping into a completely new profession?
Skills-based hiring is an increasingly popular trend which lessens the focus on filling the exact requirements of the immediate role and instead looks at what a new hire can bring to the organisation in the future. Also, for those who have had a career break looking to re-enter the workplace, recent experiences may have more relevant transferable skills than more dated workplace experiences.
Identifying and articulating transferable skills
Transferable skills are your secret weapons in showcasing your adaptability and potential in new roles. Broadly speaking, transferable skills can be split into two categories: hard and soft.
Hard transferable skills
Examples of transferable hard skills that can be valuable across different industries and roles might include proficiency in programming languages like Python or Java, data analysis, graphic design, planning, and budgeting skills.
Hard transferable skills are easy to identify and talk about on your CV or in a job interview. For example:
Q: “Have you had any experience in data analysis?”
A: “Yes. I’ve had 5+ years of experience in working with marketing data, such as analysing website traffic and tracking social media engagement. I’m confident I can apply the technical skills I’ve learnt, such as data manipulation, statistical analysis, and data visualisation, to this role in your project management team.”
Soft transferable skills
Soft transferable skills require more thought to identify and articulate. But here’s the thing: they are way more valuable to employers and are set to become increasingly important as more jobs become automated. Deloitte forecasts that soft-skill intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030.
Research has shown that up to 85% of success in role comes from having well-developed soft skills, while 75% of recruiting professionals have cut an interview short because a candidate didn't demonstrate the soft skills they were seeking. A glance at the World Economic Forum’s Top Skills of 2023 reveals that 8 out of the 10 top skills are “soft”:
Highly sought after soft skills include communication, leadership, problem-solving, adaptability, critical thinking, teamwork, emotional intelligence, and flexibility. The key is to dig into your past experiences and come up with examples where you’ve put these skills to use.
Even if your main technical (“hard”) skill seems irrelevant to the job you are applying for, there’s always an opportunity to talk about your soft skills.
Let’s take, for example, a violinist applying for a job as a boilermaker.
Q: What sort of job have you had in the past?
A: I’ve been a violinist all my life.
Q: A violinist! I’m afraid we won’t have any need for violin-playing here at Boilermakers Incorporated.
A: Yes, but there are several transferable soft skills I’ve developed over my career in music that I believe could be of value.
Q: Go on….
A: First of all, as an instrumentalist I’ve demonstrated patience and a willingness to spend time and effort mastering a craft. Playing in ensembles requires levels of teamwork and collaboration well beyond what’s needed in most workplaces. I’ve also been the leader of an orchestral violin section, which – obviously – takes leadership and communication skills.
Q: So, you’ve demonstrated perseverance and a willingness to learn, teamwork, collaboration, and leadership. We can certainly use those skills here.
In short, everything you do requires some kind of soft skills, whether it’s parenting, volunteering, sports, or other hobbies. Take the time to think about these skills, write them down, weave them into your resume, and be confident and prepared to wield them in response to job interview questions.
Weaving transferable skills into your resume:
Let’s explore how to weave soft transferable skills, such as communication and leadership, into your resume. Remember, it's important to provide concrete examples, quantify achievements where possible, and demonstrate the impact of your skills in previous roles. This helps potential employers understand how your skills can be applied in their organisation.
Volunteer Team Lead, Community Charity Organisation
Demonstrated strong leadership skills by organising and leading a team of volunteers for community events and fundraisers.
Delegated tasks, provided clear instructions, and motivated team members to achieve fundraising goals, resulting in a 30% increase in donations compared to the previous year.
Facilitated team meetings, fostering open communication, collaboration, and a positive team spirit.
Applied problem-solving skills to address challenges during events, ensuring smooth operations and customer satisfaction.