Leveraging your strongest asset: You
How identifying your transferable skills may help during your job search
Transferable skills are talents and abilities you have developed over time through your involvement in a variety of activities such as jobs, internships, volunteering, athletics, coursework, student organizations, hobbies, etc.
Oftentimes, these skills are overlooked or understated on resumes or during interviews. However, your transferable skills may actually be your strongest asset during your job search.
In order to determine what your transferable skills are, you should identify two things:
- What you need for the desired job (review job description for skills and qualifications required) and,
- What you have (look at what skills you have to offer and how things line up).
Skills are transferable, but the trick is showing employers how it applies to a particular job, and why it is useful to them. If your employment history comes from the same industry as your desired career, this might be quite easy. However, if you have limited experience in the industry of interest or are looking to make a career change , recognizing and demonstrating your transferable skills may require a bit more effort, but in the end, these skills may serve as a crucial marketing tool for how you position yourself to a potential employer.
First start by considering your work experience. Examine every aspect of your role including day-to-day responsibilities, projects in which you played a part, and various tasks you handled. Then, break down the steps involved and identify the combination of skills that each required. Finally, compare your list of skills to the list of desired skills and see where there’s overlap. Those are your transferable skills.
You can also look for transferable skills outside of the workplace. This is especially important if you’re re-entering the workforce after an extended period of unemployment or if you’re a recent graduate.
Consider the following past endeavors to see how you could pick out transferable skills that will likely support a new role you are considering:
- School experience
- Volunteer work
- Other life experiences
Job seekers should also cite specific examples of how and when the skills were applied – the more specific, the better.
For example: describing how you handled conflict on a project and how you defused the situation is much more effective than saying that you are “good at handling conflict.”
Behavioral interviewing techniques require interviewers to probe for these real life examples, so it’s a great idea to have some examples ready when questions are asked.
When creating your resume and cover letter, you’ll want to consider making the connection between job requirements and your transferable skills clear. You should try to put yourself in the place of the individual who will be reading your resume and highlight skills that could support the new opportunity or position for which you’ve applied.
Some key skills to take into consideration are:
- Speaking, writing, facilitating, negotiating, persuading, listening, interviewing, editing
- Forecasting, identifying problems, creating ideas, solving problems, setting goals, defining needs, analyzing
- Developing rapport, providing support, expressing empathy, motivating others, cooperating, representing others (being collegial and all inclusive)
- Initiating new ideas, coordinating tasks, managing groups, delegating, teaching, coaching, counseling, selling ideas, decision making, managing conflict (especially important within consulting)
- Implementing decisions, cooperating, enforcing policies, being punctual, managing time, attending to detail, meeting goals, accepting responsibility, organizing (on time/on budget)
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