What Are Transferable Skills?

When you’re going through career change or career transition – or simply just trying to find a new job that’s not quite the old one – sometimes your history of job skills doesn’t match the skills you’ll need for the new job. That’s where transferable skills come in.

Transferable skills are skills that you’ve used before in your other jobs and that can be used once you get to your new job, but also can help you win the job. Your transferable skills may not be evident in your resume as it has been written up to now, but by identifying and clearly highlighting them, you can help make your case for being rightly qualified.

An example of transferable skills from my own background: I’ve been an IT Project Manager. Let’s say I want to be an Office Manager now. If I leave my resume as is, I will be making my cover letter do a lot of heavy lifting to try to make my case. But I can shift the focus of my resume by de-emphasizing all the parts that may detract from my new goal of Office Manager and making sure to think of and highlight every skill that may apply to the new role. (Use a sample Office Manager job description to help guide you – or better yet the one from the job you’re applying for.)

In my new resume, I can make sure to talk about problem solving, organizing skills, supervisory experience (perhaps better than saying “management experience” in this case, since I have a lot of management experience and they may feel I’m overqualified), recruitment experience, maintaining records, developing policies and procedures, handling customer complaints and inquiries, maintaining budgets, and working well with upper management to make sure their goals are achieved. Gee…looks like I am ideally suited for Office Manager! How did I ever get all that other work? 😉

All those skills, which I’ve transferred from my former career, totally make me a good fit with the qualifications to be an Office Manager. So basically, transferable skills are those skills you’ve always used (perhaps not the primary skills you’ve been using) that you can extract from your existing experience and re-aim to apply to the new job – maybe even more ideally.

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NOTE: If you want to suggest changes to this or any definition in our career dictionary, please feel free to add  your suggestions in a comment.