Career Advice

Why Are Transferable Skills Important: What Are They and How To Develop Them

Transferable skills are talents and abilities that can be applied to a wide variety of careers and jobs. These skills can be acquired in a number of ways, from employment and internships to hobbies and even volunteer opportunities.

But despite the importance of understanding what your transferable skills are, many job seekers aren’t able to capture them adequately on their resumes or even identify how their skills can apply to other jobs in different industries. Many of us don’t know how to communicate our skills to potential employers either, according to a 2020 LiveCareer survey. They found that many job seekers don’t have the confidence to communicate how their skills from one industry can translate into another one.

Due to the current state of economic affairs in the country, many industries are experiencing a free fall and a tightening labor market that affects job seekers. As a result, many of us are seeking a career change, and transferable skills can be the factor that most impacts our ability to find work in a new field.

LiveCareer’s survey found that 20.8 million displaced workers don’t have the ability to confidently identify what their transferable skills are, and 21.1 million workers don’t know how to add their transferable skills to their resumes.

So, why are transferable skills important? Let’s take a look at some basics and introduce some creative ways to use your transferable skills to advance your career.

What Are Transferable Skills?

It’s safe to say that most, if not all, jobs require a variety of skills in some combination. Some of those skills are hard skills, which are quantifiable abilities like language fluency, degrees, typing or other computer skills. Some skills are known as soft skills, which aren’t as easily quantifiable, like time management or problem-solving. The great thing about these is that any of them can be transferable skills!

How Do Transferable Skills Work?

Think about the skills you’ve used in your school activities, work history and volunteer work. Most of these opportunities probably required some level of communication skills, computer skills or management prowess.

It also helps to look at jobs you’re interested in applying for to see how you can use your transferable skills. What are those employers searching for in new hires?

Take, for example, an employer who is searching for someone to take on multiple tasks. It’s likely that you’ve done this before in school, having to balance your extracurriculars along with your academic work.

“People with highly transferable skills may be specialists in certain areas, but they’re also incredible generalists – something businesses that want to grow need.” – Leah Busque.

Read More: How To Include Volunteer Experience On A Resume: Tips and Examples

Examples of transferable skills

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve hopped around from job to job or if you’ve stayed on the same career path for years; you’ve undoubtedly developed skill sets that you can add to your professional toolbelt. While it’s likely that some of these skills are specific to the job itself, many of them can be transferable to other industries. Below are a few general characteristics of each skill set:

General Skills

This type of skill set consists of basic skills that most positions will require. Some of these include the following:

  • Listening skills
  • Punctuality
  • Basic math
  • Carrying out instructions
  • Assessing your own performance
  • Written communication

Management Skills

If you’ve ever been responsible for managing a department, store or branch, these include their own set of skills. These can include the following:

  • Recruiting new hires
  • Overseeing budgets
  • Reviewing resumes
  • Interviewing candidates
  • Supervising other employees
  • Leading team meetings

Interpersonal Skills

Most of the jobs you’ve had likely involve working with others. Perhaps you worked directly with colleagues or interacted with customers. These skills can include:

  • Providing or accepting criticism
  • Handling complaints from customers
  • Training new hires
  • Motivating your colleagues
  • Delegating tasks
  • Collaboration

Clerical Skills

Administrative skills are typically needed in a wide variety of fields. These sorts of skills include the following:

  • Data entry
  • Maintaining reports
  • Managing records
  • Using office equipment like copiers and printers
  • Bookkeeping
  • Screening telephone calls

Computer Skills

These skills are imperative in the job market. Having the ability to master a program at your work demonstrates your ability to master other types of programs as needed. These skills can include:

  • Using equipment and machinery relating to your job
  • Job-related software
  • Troubleshooting software and hardware issues
  • Equipment maintenance
  • Identifying and solving issues with equipment
  • Maintaining websites

Research and planning skills

Most employers want to hire people who can take the initiative. It helps to have research skills to further demonstrate that you’re a conscientious and motivated employee. These skills can include:

  • Preventing and anticipating problems from recurring
  • Solving problems
  • Setting goals
  • Defining the needs of your department or organization
  • Managing deadlines and meeting them regularly
  • Documenting procedures

Sharing Your Transferable Skills With Confidence

If you’ve been able to identify your transferable skills with the help of the information above, here’s some guidance for how you can share those skills confidently with potential employers on your resume.

Consider Removing the Job Titles From Your Past Work

When assessing your previous work, take into consideration what the core of your job really was without worrying about the title. For instance, you might have been an educator in a previous job that gave you plenty of project management and planning experience. While this job might seem incredibly different from a typical project manager job, the skills are transferable. When you choose to remove the job title, the skills come to the forefront.

Disregard the Current Industry You Work In

There are plenty of job seekers who are currently searching for jobs in the same industry they were laid off from previously. If you’ve found yourself in this situation, it will be beneficial to let go of that industry altogether. Once you release the label of that particular field, you open yourself up to many more industries where your skills will be transferable.

Reinvent Yourself as an Employee

Reinvention is a concept that will benefit you tremendously while searching for a new job. Consider for a moment your own personal work background and think about how you were introduced to that particular field. At some point, it’s likely that you were hired somewhere without any prior experience (we all have to start somewhere, right?).

Despite not having any previous experience, most of these situations ended up benefiting you in the long run. You were able to gain skill sets and experiences that will help down the line. Reinvention can be scary, but consider trying something new and seeing what sticks.

Adjust Your Resume Strategy

As I mentioned earlier, the LiveCareer survey found some valuable information regarding how job seekers are addressing transferable skills on their resumes. According to the survey, job seekers do not have a strong grasp of soft skills.

Only 40% of respondents believe that they can capture soft skills on their resume (e.g., teamwork, communication, leadership), compared to 45% of respondents who say the same for hard skills (e.g., project management, software expertise, inventory management). Typically, soft skills can be transferred between jobs, making them crucial to workers in industries that are expected to be hardest hit by COVID.

Which soft skills do you possess most? Jot them down. Which transferable skills do you possess most? Make a list.

Is there another industry that makes you excited to be a part of it? Not sure if you can make that leap? What’s on your resume might not be the only thing holding you back.

Can you imagine what would happen if you were able to reinvent yourself more easily than you realize — beginning with a better understanding of the new story around your soft skills? It’s with that approach that you can achieve your ambitious goals.

So, Why Are Transferable Skills Important?

Transferable skills are essential to your employability. Whether you are working for a company, team, or customer, they contribute to success. In addition, they provide you with control over your career path and ease the stress experienced during times of change, such as a promotion or career switch.

In this way, these skills never “go out of style.” Instead, they are skills that will follow and support your success professionally, provided you invest and work hard at honing them.

In light of how the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and technology are affecting all of us, we must expand and transform our capabilities.

If you’re interested in further exploring transferable skills, check out this book on Amazon. Titled “From specialist to leader: How to reskill, upskill and build transferable skills in a rapidly changing world,” the book expands upon how to develop your transferable skills in a way that can help progress your career no matter what industry you pursue.

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About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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