Market your transferrable skills and land the job you want

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Whether you’re 20 or 60, looking for a new job can be intimidating and ego-deflating.

You may think, “I’ve done the same job for 15 years…I can’t do anything else” or “I’ve been a stay-at-home mom. I don’t have any work skills.” Or even, “I’ve been in a blue-collar job since my 20s…I don’t have any white-collar experience or training so why bother!”

But you actually have dozens of marketable skills you take for granted and may not even recognize. They’re called transferable skills because they can take you from job to job, project to project, or work to home and back again. In fact, technical and hard skills – degrees, diplomas, certificates, managerial experience, a special designation, etc.— only make up 25 percent of what employers want.

Look at job descriptions: They contain words and phrases like “problem-solving skills,” “strong judgement,” “conceptual planning skills,” “ability to work in a fast-paced environment,” etc. These are transferable skills and they’re not easily taught. They come from years of experience as an employee, parent, spouse or friend. They refer to maturity, wisdom, experience, the ability to plan, take initiative and being able to work on your own.

Transferable skills are generally bunched into five categories:

  1. Communications
  2. Research and Planning
  3. Human Resources
  4. Organization, Management and Leadership
  5. Work Ethic

The trick to marketing your transferrable skills is to first identify your own unique skill set.

Using the following charts, list a specific situation where you demonstrated a skill in that area. These answers will come in handy when working on your resume and other job-search tools.

    1. Communications: The skillful expression, transmission and interpretation of knowledge and ideas.
      Skill Example
      Speaking effectively
      Writing concisely
      Speaking other languages
      Listening attentively
      Expressing ideas
      Facilitating group discussion
      Providing appropriate feedback
      Perceiving nonverbal messages
      Reporting information
      Describing feelings
    2. Research and Planning: The search for specific knowledge and the ability to conceptualize future needs and solutions for meeting those needs.
      Skill Example
      Forecasting, predicting
      Creativity and idea generation
      Identifying problems
      Imagining alternatives
      Identifying resources
      Information gathering
      Data-driven decision making
      Problem solving
      Setting goals
      Extracting important information
      Defining needs
      Analyzing/synthesizing information
      Developing evaluation strategies
    3. Human Resources: The use of interpersonal skills for resolving conflict, relating to and helping people.
      Skill Example
      Developing rapport
      Being sensitive
      Conveying feelings
      Providing support for others
      Sharing credit
      Delegating with respect
      Representing others
      Perceiving feelings, situations
      Cultural awareness
    4. Organization, Management, and Leadership: The ability to supervise, direct and guide individuals and groups in the completion of tasks and fulfillment of goals.
      Skill Example
      Initiating new ideas
      Handling details
      Coordinating tasks
      Adapting to change
      Managing groups
      Delegating responsibility
      Setting realistic deadlines
      Reviewing progress
      Learning from experience
      Promoting change
      Selling ideas or products
      Decision making with others
      Managing conflict
      Working in teams
    5. Work Ethic: The day-to-day skills that assist in promoting effective production and work satisfaction.
      Skill Example
      Personal organization
      Making decisions
      Implementing decisions
      Enforcing policies
      Time management
      Attention to detail
      Meeting goals
      Enlisting help
      Accepting responsibility
      Stress management
      Setting and meeting deadlines
      Environmental sustainability

You now know you possess many transferable skills that are in great demand. So when applying for a new position, whether inside or outside your present organization, re-read the job description and take note of the transferable skills the employer is seeking. Then, when adapting your resume, writing your cover letter or being interviewed, weave in examples of how you met past challenges by using these skills.

And finally, knowing the dozens of skills you actually posses will give you the added confidence to sail through those interviews and land the job you really want.

Barbara Jaworski is the author of Rebel Retirement A KAA-Boomers Guide to Creating an Explosive Second Act and KAA-Boom!How to Engage the 50 Plus Worker and Beat the Workforce Crisis and CEO of the Workplace Institute

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebekah September 15, 2011 at 10:08 pm

I’m finding it really hard to think of transferable skills for a cover letter that I have to write. I have been an at home mother to my daughter for the past 3 years and 9 months, I am also a single parent. Everything that could be transferred to a job in terms of skills, would only be from the relationship that I have with my daughter. I hope there is something there that I am not seeing that would be great for a cover letter but at the moment, I cant see it. Please help me :-)


Job Descriptions June 28, 2012 at 9:59 am

Very inspiring post! Really boosted me with confidence.!@Lisa


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