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What Are Transferable Skills? Definition and Examples

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Even if you haven’t had your first professional job, chances are you’ve gained some transferable skills from internships, volunteering, classes, and even extracurriculars. Transferable skills, as the name suggests, are skills you can transfer from one job to another. These may be soft skills, like collaboration and problem-solving, or hard skills, such as data analytics or coding.

This guide will help you learn more about transferable skills and how to identify yours so you can include them in your job application. We’ll cover: 

Transferable Skills Definition

Transferable skills are often called “portable skills” because you can bring what you’ve learned from one job to another. You can apply these general skills to various fields, working environments, and industries.

For example, problem-solving skills are valuable transferable skills because employers look to hire people who can help them find solutions. Yet a marketer will use these skills differently than a data analyst. The marketer may problem-solve how to bring a bigger audience to their site. The data analyst may problem-solve why revenue is down by digging through the results of past sales efforts. Both are using the same problem-solving skills but applying them differently.

Transferable Skills Examples

Unlike industry-specific skills like accounting or investment banking, you can use transferable skills in various positions, even within different career paths.

Collaboration

Collaboration skills are what you use when working with others, whether virtually, in-person, synchronously, or in different time zones. If you’re bouncing ideas off someone else, consulting them to get feedback, or editing a project together, you’re collaborating with them. Collaboration skills make you an easy person to work with and an effective teammate — regardless of who you’re working with and what you’re working on.

Time Management

While all jobs have different deadlines and productivity expectations, good time management skills will always make you a more efficient worker. Someone with effective time management skills knows how to delegate time to each task based on its priority. They set boundaries to get adequate focus time and always finish their work by the deadline. 

Creative Thinking

Creative thinking isn’t just for creative careers. This transferable skill can help you think outside the box when any problem arises at work. Creative thinkers brainstorm multiple ideas, test and iterate new theories, and innovate solutions that break company tradition. While creative thinkers might not always nail the right solution the first time, they’re not afraid to try something new again until they have something original that sticks.

Analytical Skills

Like creative thinking isn’t just for creatives, analytical skills aren’t just for analysts. Analytical skills include hard skills like research and data analysis, but they also cover fact-based, logical thinking skills. You can use these skills to approach problems methodically and reasonably. 

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Attention to Detail

Employers will always value work that is accurate and free of mistakes. Attention to detail skills help you focus on the small areas of a project or task and produce clean and organized work. 

Adaptability

Adaptability is one of the top five soft skills employers seek in 2022. Someone with adaptability skills can keep up with changing environments and pivot their focus when new challenges arise. The world of work has continually shifted since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and employees who can keep up with the changes — whether that’s where they’re working or the tools they’re working with — are highly valuable additions to any team.

How to Identify Your Transferable Skills

Don’t worry if you haven’t had a professional gig yet — it’s likely you still have valuable transferable skills that employers are looking for.

“If you worked on a group project, you may have developed your leadership, mentoring, or project management skills,” Rachel Pelta, head writer at Forage, says. “The specifics depend on your role and the situation, but when you step back and examine everything you contributed to the project, you might find you have a lot of transferable skills that will serve you well throughout your career.”

Consider your experiences in school, volunteer work, extracurriculars, and internships. To identify your transferable skills from these experiences, ask yourself:

  • What was the work process like for these experiences, and how did I contribute?
  • Who did I work with, and how did I work with them?
  • What knowledge did I bring to these experiences, and what knowledge did I leave with?
  • Did I learn any new tools?
  • How did I contribute to the end goals or results of these experiences?

Questions like these will help you identify patterns of what you brought to or learned from your experiences. The skills you used and gained from these experiences are your transferable skills.

How to Include Transferable Skills in a Job Application

The best transferable skills to include in a job application are the ones you possess and the ones the employer is looking for. To find out what skills the employer wants, look closely at the job description to identify the hard and soft skills required. For example, if they’re looking for a “team player,” you might want to show off your teamwork, collaboration, and communication skills.

Once you’ve identified the target skills from the job description, strategically place these skills on your resume. Don’t be afraid to include the exact skills from the job description.

“Recruiters decide who to advance through the hiring process by searching resumes for these specific keywords and phrases,” Matthew Warzel, CPRW resume writer, says. “It’s mandatory to add this core competency section.”

Warzel recommends including hard skills under a “core competencies” section and soft skills in the summary section. 

>>>MORE: Learn more resume tips, tricks, and insights with Forage’s Resume Writing Masterclass.

Transferable Skills: The Bottom Line

Transferable skills are vital not only because they can apply to any industry but also because they’re timeless — they’ll help you throughout your entire career.

“The modern workplace changes rapidly. Between technology that changes how we get things done and communicate to a company pivoting due to industry changes, your transferable skills help you stay employable and relevant in any job and any industry,” Pelta says. “For example, at company A you used Microsoft Excel. But at company B, they use Google Sheets. It’s the same thing (a spreadsheet), just a different program. Your ability to work with spreadsheets is a transferable skill and framing it the right way on your resume and in the interview can help you land the job.”

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