9 Transferable Skills That Can Transform Your Career

4 min read

Education & Career Trends: June 4, 2024

Curated by the Knowledge Team of  ICS Career GPS

Whether switching jobs or adapting to new roles within the same job, transferable skills help you navigate these transitions smoothly.

Article by Tchiki Davis, published on psychologytoday.com.

In today’s dynamic job market, the average person can expect to hold 12 different jobs in their lifetime (United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021). With all this job-changing, how can you navigate your career in the direction you want? One effective strategy is to cultivate and leverage transferable skills.

What Are Transferable Skills?

Transferable skills are those abilities that are useful across a wide variety of jobs. You might develop these skills in school, through work, volunteering, or even hobbies, and then apply them in new and different situations (Nagele & Stalder, 2017). Transferable skills range from specific technical knowledge to more generic competencies like computer proficiency or fluency in a foreign language. They also include essential “soft skills” such as communication and problem-solving.

The Importance of Soft Skills

Soft skills, a subset of transferable skills, are crucial for effectively applying technical knowledge (Bancino & Zevalkink, 2007). For example, a restaurant manager needs technical scheduling skills and soft skills like empathy and leadership to ensure staff satisfaction.

Why Transferable Skills Matter

Change is a constant in professional life. Whether switching jobs or adapting to new roles within the same job, transferable skills help you navigate these transitions smoothly. Technical skills that are easily adaptable are valuable, but soft skills like creative thinking, cultural acceptance, and self-confidence are often even more critical (de Villiers, 2010). These soft skills can enhance your earning potential, as those with leadership, planning, and problem-solving abilities often command higher incomes (Ramos et al., 2013).

Key Categories of Transferable Skills

According to Nagele & Stalder (2017), transferable skills can be grouped into several broad categories:

  1. Fundamental Skills: Literacy, numeracy, technology proficiency, and physical abilities.
  2. People Skills: Communication, teamwork, customer service, leadership, and management.
  3. Conceptualising or Thinking Skills: Problem-solving, organising, planning, and critical thinking.
  4. Business Skills: Innovation, entrepreneurship, and administrative skills.
  5. Community Skills: Citizenship, work ethic, emotional labour, and cultural awareness.

While some skills like basic communication and literacy are universally required, others like customer service may be more specific to certain industries.

Transferable skills can also be organised into specific competencies and strengths (Ramos et al., 2013). Describing your particular abilities may be more informative than broad statements about your generic skills. These include:

  1. Literacy Skills: Reading and writing documents, memos, forms, or reports.
  2. Leadership Skills: Coaching and motivating staff, developing competencies, planning activities, making strategic decisions, and managing resources.
  3. Physical Skills: Physical strength, hand dexterity, endurance, and stamina.
  4. Problem Solving Skills: Spotting and analysing problems, identifying causes, and finding solutions.
  5. Influencing Skills: Advising customers, persuading others, dealing with people, and making speeches and presentations.
  6. Teamwork Skills: Working in teams, listening to colleagues, paying attention to details.
  7. Planning Skills: Time-management, organising, and planning tasks.
  8. Numeracy Skills: Working with numbers or using advanced mathematical and statistical tools.
  9. Emotional Skills: Language skills, negotiation, emotion regulation, and managing other people’s feelings.

Recognising and Developing Transferable Skills

Transferring skills from one context to another can be challenging (Saks et al., 2014). The ability to identify which skills are applicable in new situations is, in itself, a valuable skill. Understanding your transferable skills and knowing which new skills to develop can significantly enhance your career prospects.

In a world where job changes are frequent and roles continuously evolve, transferable skills provide a foundation of adaptability and resilience. By honing these skills, you can better navigate the shifting landscape of your career and achieve your professional goals.

Have you checked out yesterday’s blog yet?

Revitalise Your Workday: 4 Strategies for Reducing Stress and Burnout

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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