Transferable skills - The skills needed for a new job

transferable skills
These days, the words on every employer's lips when it comes to changing jobs, and careers in particular, are "transferable skills". If you don't know what transferable skills are, then read on, as not being aware of how to showcase your transferable skills in a CV or cover letter, could mean the difference between getting that job or being rejected.

What are transferable skills?

Transferable skills are any type of skills that you have learned throughout your life, whether it was at school, university, through voluntary work, team sports, hobbies, DIY projects, travelling, or any other life experiences that you can then apply and use in your next career or job.

If you are changing jobs but staying in the same line of work, displaying your transferable skills is not as important. It is, however, if you are completely changing career and will be doing a job that you have never done before. How will you get a company to give you a job when you don't have the experience? That's where transferable skills come in!

As well as for people who are changing career fields, transferable skills are also important for school and university graduates and for those that have been out of work for a long period of time, such as after bringing up children or after maternity leave.

When applying for a new job in a new career, it is advisable to make a list of all of the skills that you have picked up throughout your life. If you are unsure of which line of work you want to work in next, studying your list of skills may help you decide. Take a look at a number of careers that you think you may like to do, find out and read their job description and specification and see how many skills you can match up from your list. You may find that you are not lacking as many skills as you first thought, and perhaps those that you do need to acquire may not be very difficult to gain.

List of some transferable skills:

  • Able to multitask
  • Present written material orally
  • Able to meet tight deadlines and work under pressure
  • Advanced computer operations
  • Managing people and leading a team
  • Able to effectively deal with problems and crises
  • Motivate others
  • Analytical and organisational skills

The list is endless but all of the above skills can be applied to more than one job. If you can understand the concept of transferable skills, it is much more likely that you will be able to produce a top-class CV and cover letter that is much more likely able to guarantee you at least an interview, if not a job as well.

For example, a secretary could put "multitask" as one of her skills, yet so could a busy mother of three children who are all under the age of four! When writing your CV, you have to know how to sell yourself. So what if you have been at home for three years without working, looking after very young children. That's probably one of the most difficult jobs out there and think of how many skills are needed to do that - seven days a week as well!!

If you are writing a CV for a specific company, you have to look at the job description and specification and see which skills are needed to do that job. Then turn your experiences into the skills that they are specifically looking for in a person where possible. If you have skills that are not required for the position that you are hoping to secure, then leave them out. Make sure that your CV is relevant to the position that you are applying for.

If your skills are your major selling point, then it is advisable to write a functional (skills-based) CV. This format emphasises the skills that you have rather than your educational qualifications or work history. It is recommended to use this format when changing career completely or when you have been out of work for a while.

If, however, you want to highlight your skills but also have an impressive employment and educational history, then you can use a chrono-functional CV, which is a combination of both a chronological and a functional CV. For more details see our guide to the different types of CV.

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