What Are Transferable Skills?

Abilities You Can Take With You

Thinking About Your Transferable Skills
Take some time to think about the skills you can transfer to a new career. Cavan Images/Iconica/Getty Images

If you are hesitant to leave your job or change careers because you are worried you will have to acquire a whole new set of skills while all the ones you built up over the years will go to waste, put that fear to rest. You will be able to take many of them with you to your new job or career. Transferable skills are the talents and abilities that can travel with you when you make a transition.

Study the list below to help you discover which skills you have.

You may have acquired them through jobs, school, apprenticeshipsinternships, formal and informal training, hobbies, and volunteer experiences. There are six broad categories: Basic, People, Management, Clerical, Research and Planning, and Computer and Technical Skills. This list does not include the hard skills that allow you to perform your particular job, although you may be able to transfer them between occupations too.

Basic Skills:

  • Use listening skills to understand oral instructions
  • Learn new procedures
  • Understand and carry out written instructions
  • Orally convey information to others
  • Observe and assess your own and others' performances
  • Communicate in writing
  • Use mathematical processes to solve problems
  • Speak in public
  • Demonstrate professionalism

People Skills:

  • Provide constructive criticism
  • Receive feedback
  • Coordinate actions with other people's actions
  • Negotiate, persuade and influence people
  • Motivate others
  • Handle complaints
  • Train or teach new skills
  • Delegate work to others
  • Oversee others' work
  • Perform outreach
  • Counsel people
  • Build strong customer relationships
  • Collaborate with other people
  • Mentor younger colleagues
  • Resolve conflicts
  • Develop relationships with suppliers
  • Demonstrate comfort when dealing with all people
  • Gain clients' or customers' confidence

Management Skills:

  • Oversee budgets
  • Recruit personnel
  • Review resumes
  • Interview job candidates
  • Select new hires
  • Supervise employees
  • Allocate resources such as equipment, materials, and facilities
  • Schedule personnel
  • Preside over meetings
  • Negotiate contracts
  • Evaluate personnel
  • Organize committees

Clerical Skills

  • Perform general clerical and administrative support tasks
  • Design forms, correspondence, and reports
  • Manage records
  • Take minutes at meetings
  • Use word processing software
  • Use database management software
  • Use spreadsheet software
  • Use desktop publishing software
  • Use presentation software
  • Perform data entry
  • Keep track of accounts receivable, accounts payable, billing, etc. (bookkeeping)
  • Screen telephone calls
  • Greet visitors

Research and Planning Skills:

  • Identify and present problems to upper management
  • Anticipate and prevent problems from occurring or reoccurring
  • Use critical thinking skills to make decisions or evaluate possible solutions to problems 
  • Solve problems
  • Deal with obstacles and crises
  • Define organization's or department's needs
  • Set goals
  • Prioritize tasks
  • Locate and reach out to suppliers or sub-contractors
  • Analyze information and forecast results
  • Manage your time and meet deadlines
  • Plan and implement events and activities
  • Develop and implement new policies and procedures
  • Develop a budget
  • Coordinate and develop programs
  • Document procedures and results
  • Produce reports
  • Conduct research using the Internet and library resources
  • Generate ideas
  • Develop and carry out ideas

Computer and Technical Skills:

  • Use computer software that is related to job
  • Use job-related equipment
  • Install software on computers
  • Use the Internet, including email and search engines
  • Use equipment such as printers, copiers and fax machines
  • Troubleshoot problems with hardware, software and other equipment
  • Install equipment
  • Troubleshoot problems with and repair equipment
  • Maintain equipment
  • Inspect equipment to identify problems

Additional Skills:

  • Demonstrate fluency or working knowledge of a foreign language
  • Demonstrate fluency or working knowledge of sign language
  • Fundraise
  • Write grants
  • Design websites

What Are Your Transferable Skills?

Write a list of your transferable skills using this one as a starting point. Select the ones you have from the list above and then add others that aren't listed. Also, include your hard skills. Once you have everything written down in one place, assess your marketability to potential employers. Do you have the skills they are seeking? Are there any gaps you will need to address by getting additional training, education, and experience.

Use Your Transferable Skills to Market Yourself to Prospective Employers

Your resume should demonstrate to prospective employers that you have the skills they are seeking. This is where your transferable skills come in. Work them into your job descriptions taking care to match the language you use to the language in the job announcements for the positions to which you apply.

Highlight your transferable skills on job interviews as well. When you answer potential employers' questions, be sure to talk about those that are relevant to the positions for which you are applying.