Every single job involves some combination of skills. They could be hard skills, which are specific and can be learned, like the ability to speak a foreign language fluently. 

They could be soft skills, which are less quantifiable but just as important, such as being good at time management or teamwork. 

Then there are transferable skills, which cut across both categories and can make you extremely attractive to employers.

What Are Transferable Skills?

As the name suggests, transferable skills are those that are relevant to multiple career fields. For example, expertise in the Microsoft Office suite will be valued in any number of roles and industries.

One of the best things about transferable skills is that you can pick them up everywhere, not just in your professional life. The experiences you acquire at home, at school, and at work will directly influence the makeup of your transferable skill set.

Why Are Transferable Skills Important?

Some employers may require you to develop skills that are only relevant to one specific role, such as learning how to use a certain piece of in-house software.

However, the vast majority of skills are far more adaptable. When you acquire transferable skills, you become more versatile, giving you the ability to fulfil different roles and perform different tasks. This gives you a big advantage over candidates who lack those skills.

Transferable skills are especially important when it comes to applying for jobs in a different type of organization, or in a different industry. Say you have spent your whole career working in finance at a small business but apply for a role in IT at a charity. While you may lack some of the highly specific skills and experiences of a candidate with a background in working for charity IT teams, your transferable skills may still make you ideally suited to the role.

How to Identify Your Most Valuable Transferable Skills

By definition, everyone has some transferable skills. The challenge lies in defining which transferable skills you possess and understanding how they apply to a new role. One way to overcome this challenge is to draw up a list of skills and traits across the following four categories:

  • Things you love doing
  • Things you are especially good at doing
  • Personal qualities you possess
  • Your specific work experiences

Next, write down the specific organizations you want to work for, or the general job roles for which you want to apply.

Finally, figure out how the characteristics and abilities in those first four lists can be applied to those organizations or roles. This will help you figure out the value you offer to potential employers.

3 Ways to Improve Your Transferable Skills

While transferable skills can be passively acquired both in and outside the workplace, it is still possible to take active steps to improve upon them. Try these three tactics:

1.    Focus on Your Listening Skills
Communication is an extremely valuable transferable skill because it cuts across multiple other skills, such as collaboration, persuasion, and emotional intelligence. 

To be a strong communicator, you first need to be an effective listener. That way, you can understand other people’s points of view and figure out how best to get your own message across.

Strive to listen more actively by giving the speaker your complete attention and acknowledge that you hear and understand exactly what they are telling you.

2.    Volunteer for Public Speaking Opportunities
However good you are at your job, you will struggle to get other people on your side if you are unable to be convincing in your presentation skills.

Whether a presentation involves speaking to a handful of colleagues or a conference hall full of strangers, you can improve your skills in this area by simply getting more practice.

Volunteer for projects, both in and out of work, that involve some degree of public speaking. This could mean running a training session, talking at a company event, or even giving a wedding speech. 

3.    Work on Collaborative Projects
Collaboration is consistently recognized as one of the most valuable of all soft skills, and it is also highly transferable. The ability to work well as part of a team is useful in any number of roles and industries.

While you will naturally acquire collaboration skills over time, you can improve your existing abilities by getting involved in more team-based projects. Again, these projects could be inside or outside the workplace.

If you would like more help your next job search, please browse our advice section or reach out to one of our expert consultants today.