How to identify transferable skills and use them to help you apply

Transferable skills are the capabilities you can put to use in almost any job – so they can play a key role in helping you to branch out into a new type of work.

COVID-19 has meant many people are now looking for work in different fields or industries, or exploring what their options are in a very different job market.

So, how can your transferable skills actually help you when you apply for a role? How can you use them to find work or make a change?

Career and interview coach Leah Lambart shared her tips with us in a recent Facebook live event, answering reader questions.

Here’s what to know about identifying and selling your transferable skills.

What are transferable skills?

If it’s a new term to you, transferable skills are core abilities such as communication skills (writing, listening), organisational skills (e.g. time management, planning, budgeting, admin), people skills (patience, co-operation) and leadership skills (e.g. giving feedback, coaching).

They can apply across a broad range of jobs and industries. For example, you may have never worked on a call centre helpline, but if you’ve worked retail in a customer-facing role, you’ll have plenty of transferable communication and people skills to include in your resume and when addressing selection criteria. And these same skills could be useful in a wide rage of roles, helping you broaden your search.

How do I identify my transferable skills?

Looking at job descriptions can help you work out what your transferable skills are, Lambart says. Do a quick search online for job descriptions that match your current role or the last role you’ve had. Reading this information will give you an idea of the skills you put to use in your work, and what your transferable skills are – there may be some you didn’t realise you had. Then you can look at including this information in your resume.

This transferable skills checklist can also help you to identify your skills and understand the different ways they’re useful to workplaces.

How do I talk about my transferable skills in my resume?

Your transferable skills should be front and centre on the first page of your resume. You could create a list of extended bullet points on your skills, tailored to the job you’re applying for. Go into some detail beyond just giving a typical list of transferable skills, by drawing out what you're really good at and how you match the selection criteria of the job you're interested in.

Say, for example, you have retail experience but you’re looking to move into a customer service officer position. Lambart says you would likely have communication skills gained through helping customers over the phone and in person, from a broad range of people. The transferable skill here would be the ability to adapt your communication style for people of diverse ages and backgrounds, rather than just ‘great communication skills’.

You can also back up your transferable skills in your cover letter by writing about how you’ve gained and used certain skills, and how they could be used in the position you’re applying for.

These tips on how to write a transferable skills-based resume could also help you craft a resume that highlights how you can take on a new role or industry.

It can be daunting applying for work in a new field – you might feel you lack experience and skills. But by exploring your transferable skills and highlighting them in your job applications, you can show employers what you can bring to the role and build your own confidence in your skills, too.

Read more: