Mary Lorenz, CareerBuilder writer
Want to try a new industry or embark on a career change but don’t think you have what it takes to make the leap? You may be better prepared than you realize. When you tap into your transferable skills and use those to market yourself, your opportunities open up, enabling you to explore new industries and job titles.
What are transferable skills?
Transferable skills are skills that aren’t directly related to the job in question, but can be applied to a wide range of jobs and industries. These skills are usually learned on the job, at school, during volunteer work, through community activities, at networking events or even in everyday social activities. Below are some of the transferable skills employers across almost every industry look for most in potential employees.
Zachary Painter, a career adviser and hiring manager at ResumeGenius, suggests developing STEM-related skills, such as coding, which have becoming increasingly desirable. While you may not have the time or patience to learn computer programming, any time and effort you can devote to developing your computer literacy skills and familiarizing yourself with up-and-coming software and workplace tools will not go to waste. “You can use these skills at any job, as technology is becoming more ubiquitous in the workplace,” Painter says.
In addition to computer literacy, the ability to analyze data, trends or reports is both increasingly in demand and highly transferable, according to Rian Powell, director of recruiting, accounting and finance at LaSalle Network. “We’re starting to see more STEM candidates in the job market who have experience and knowledge in high-volume data tools, and if you worked in one data set, you can work in another,” Powell says. While you may not consider yourself an analytical person, Powell says many people have analyzed data in some capacity, whether it was for a school project, in a previous job or “even looking at how a personal post on Facebook did in terms of activity and analyzing why it performed a certain way.”
“Presentation skills can be used in so many different environments: team meetings, client presentations, one-on-one meetings with a supervisor, individual staff evaluations, and committee meetings, to name a few,” says April Klimkiewicz, owner of bliss evolution, a career coaching business. “Presentation skills are important because you have to know your audience and determine what information will be most important and relevant to them in order to affect your intended outcome.”
“Being able to prioritize work is extremely important in today’s labor market,” Klimkiewicz says. “This allows the manager to focus on other goals rather than checking in with their direct reports constantly.”
The ability to prioritize also shows that you have a strong work ethic, according to Powell, and you don’t need to have recent work experience to hone this skill. “For recent college students entering the workforce, examples can stem from having to balancing class with sports, or with an extracurricular activity,” Powell says. “If you are a parent returning to the workforce, this is an ongoing balancing act and knowing what is important [versus what is] urgent is a skill that is relatable to any industry.”
“No matter what position level, what industry, and what position focus, if you cannot communicate effectively – both verbally as well as in writing – you cannot be effective in your job,” says Wade Pierson, owner of Impact Talent Ventures.
Adds Powell: “Communication is one of the most important skills to have in the workplace and can be transferred from any previous experience – personal or professional.” For example, at school, one might develop their communication skills from participating in a committee, club or college sport, or by working in group projects and presentations. In the workforce, communication skills develop through everyday experience “or even paying attention to effective communicators and how they approach different types of conversation,” Powell says.
How to hone your transferable skills
Chances are you probably already have many of these skills; however, if you want to expand your skill set, try taking classes online or at a local community college, Powell suggests. “Do it outside of the workplace to show that you’re passionate about it and willing to invest your own time,” she says. Expanding your professional network can help, too. “You could also attend networking events in that new industry or role to meet people in the industry who can help you learn and grow.”
Put your transferable skills to use. Check out How to talk about transferable skills.