The global pandemic has forced a mass re-appraisal of work. As a result, many are beginning to ask themselves whether they can successfully change careers and, if so, what skills do they have to offer new employers?
The answer likely lies in your transferable skills.
Transferable, or “portable skills,” are all the skills that you take with you from one job to another. For instance, the ability to clearly communicate ideas to others, solve unexpected problems, or work well in a team are all examples of transferable skills.
While technical skills allow you to accomplish specific technical tasks, such as coding with Python or creating wireframes for UX design, transferable skills are the skills that ensure you do your job well. As a result, transferable skills are highly prized by employers: after all, a programmer with the ability to work in a team is likely more valuable than a programmer who doesn’t code well with others.
Learn how transferable skills are viewed by employers, how to identify your own, and find a list of five common transferable skills with examples to help you better identify your own.
At the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of how to highlight your transferable skills to potential employers as you search for your next career.
6 transferable skills with examples
Here are six common transferable skills, with examples of how they might show up in different roles. Use this list to help identify your own transferrable skills.
Critical thinking is the ability to evaluate, synthesize, and analyze information in an objective manner in order to produce an original insight or judgement. Individuals who are critical thinkers will often prompt themselves and others to think more deeply about an issue, ensuring that a product, idea, or policy is thoroughly conceptualized.
Examples of critical thinking include:
- A teacher who crafts a curriculum to fit the unique needs of their students
- An employee who routinely questions the popular opinion in meetings to ensure that decisions are sound
- A data scientist who asks original questions of datasets
- A union representative who asks important questions of employers to ensure the safety and wellbeing of factory workers
Problem solving is the ability to find solutions to complex or difficult issues. A person who is a skilled problem solver is likely good at identifying the underlying reasons a problem exists and then executing a plan to resolve it.
Problem solving can come in many forms, including:
- A cashier who quickly devises a way to take orders when the point-of-sale (POS) system shuts down
- An accountant who creates a more efficient filing system
- An intern in a political campaign who constructs a database to improve voter outreach
Adaptability is the ability to quickly adjust to new situations. A person who is adaptable is not only comfortable entering unfamiliar environments and facing new challenges, but also often succeeds in such situations.
Examples of adaptability include:
- A worker in a warehouse who is equally comfortable packing products, taking inventory, making deliveries, and negotiating shift schedules
- A dispatcher who quickly responds to driver requests and offers alternative routes while switching between multiple applications
- A recently hired employee at a company who quickly gets up to speed on an important project
Teamwork is the ability to work well with others and put the good of the project ahead of personal interest. A person who is good at teamwork is capable of supporting teammates, motivating others, and both giving and receiving constructive feedback.
Some examples of teamwork include:
- A waiter who works under pressure with a team of bussers, cooks, and dishwashers, while tactfully maneuvering a range of personalities and interfacing with customers
- A builder who must work with many others to ensure the timely completion of a home
- A stagehand who must work with a team to ensure that a stage is quickly set during an opera performance
- A copywriter who must simultaneously produce original material for a client and also adjust to client feedback
Attention to detail
Attention to detail is the ability to assure the quality of the finer aspects of a project. An individual who exhibits a refined attention to detail is able to focus on the minute—though crucial—aspects of a project or product that many others may overlook.
Some examples of attention to detail at work include:
- A worker in a ceramics factory who assures the quality of each tile by checking them for imperfections in glaze, size, shape, and material
- A bookkeeper who makes a habit of going through a company’s accounts line-by-line to ensure that all financial records are in order
- An editor who reads through written content to correct any errors in spelling, grammar, or phrasing
- A programmer who reads through lines of codes to fix any mistakes
- A garment worker who checks that the stitching on newly manufactured coats are correct
Management is the ability to effectively handle other people and processes, such as time or plans. An effective manager of other people might be adept at supervising, directing, and scheduling. At the same time, they are likely skilled at understanding how each team member fits into the larger picture of the organization or project they are undertaking.
Here a few examples of management from the real world:
- A stage manager for a theatrical production who must ensure everything runs smoothly during a live performance
- A parent who must plan, schedule, and juggle numerous responsibilities for a family
- A shift leader who must ensure their team understands what they are doing and stays on task
- A club president who regularly runs club meetings, facilitates discussions, and plans activities
- A grocery store owner who must schedule employees and regularly order produce from suppliers
Transferable skills and your resume
Whether you are looking for a job opportunity or are considering a career change, you are likely wondering what transferable skills you already possess.
In this section you will find a list of numerous transferable skills alongside an exercise to help you identify some of yours.