What Are Transferable Job Skills and Why Do They Matter?
Published on: January 23, 2020
You've may have heard someone mention transferable skills or experience and are wondering what that means. Basically, this is a way of talking about skills you need for a job (to show you're qualified) – even if at first glance it might look like you don't match the required experience!
Early on in my own career when I wanted to change jobs, I never knew there was a thing called "transferable job skills." I just knew that, when I was looking to move to a different type of job or industry and I didn't have "the right skills," I could still show I was indeed qualified for the new job.
Employers can't always see the right skills match
More than once, I wound up getting myself to jobs that at first glance didn't seem like a strong fit. How? By using my transferable skills in my resume, cover letters, and interviews. Each one is a great place to highlight skills that you used while doing one job that you can easily use in a different job, even if the positions don't look anything like each other. Some transferable job skills are fairly obvious – like typing, supervisory skills, record-keeping, customer service, problem-solving, sales, or writing. But even with a skill like writing that seems like it might be easy to transfer, the connection is not always obvious. So you need to help them see it.
Let's say you did copywriting in an advertising job, and now you're looking to switch to being a technical writer for technology. You may see yourself as capable, but employers often look for exact experience and skills. So how do you make a strong case for being hired despite your lack of precise experience? That's where our good friend transferable skills come in! In this example, if you ever did some actual technical copywriting, it would be much easier to make your case.
But what if you only did copywriting for toothpaste? You can still make a good case for how those skills would be transferable, strengthening your argument by adding any directly-related experience you have, such as solid knowledge of relevant technology.
How transferable skills can help shape your resume
Transferable skills have an important role to play during your job interview, as you make your case for why you fit the new job so well, even if you don't have the exact experience. But they are also very useful in creating a strong, targeted resume and cover letter that will hopefully help the employer see the match – and select you as a potential match. To get a handle on your transferable skills, first look at the job description, highlighting all the key skills and experiences they are looking for.
Now, look at your resume and think about everything you've ever done (even if it isn't listed on this version of your resume). Then look again at the highlighted areas on the job description, and think hard about where your skills and experiences use the same basic underlying skills. Analysis. Problem-solving. Relationship management. Project management. Customer service. Presenting information. Communicating. Learning new software.
The list of possible transferable skills goes on. You want to look at the larger picture of what you did, apart from the specific circumstance. Once you get the idea, you'll be able to see all kinds of transferable experience. And then you can change the way your resume is worded (if possible using some the of the words / ideas from the job description) to also help the employer see the connection.
Transferable skills can get you to where you want to go, even without the perfect experience. I've done it myself many times. We are not just the small outline of what we've done before. Luckily, so much of what we do can be used again in a different environment by using transferable skills. I guess you can think of it as skills recycling!