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Future-Prepare Yourself with Transferable Skills

Have you ever worried about the future of your job? Given that the unemployment rate in the US has jumped to over 13% recently, there is a good chance the answer is a resounding YES, at least for the time being. But before our current global crisis, were you one of the 40% of the workforce who worried about the future of their jobs? I was. There was a point in my life where I was part of the statistic, and it was not fun: the fear, the anxiety, the pit in my stomach. But that all changed for me when I discovered a concept that would transform my life and liberate me from the fear over my future—the concept of transferable skills.

Transferable skills, also known as portable skills, are a core set of skills and abilities you have that can transfer to a whole host of other opportunities, regardless of the industry, organization, or even your job title.

Many people feel trapped within their job title, but understanding that you have skills that go beyond your job title is empowering. You are not your job title! And you are not limited to the box your job title may put you in. Job titles tend to be driven by HR to delineate talent and categorize for organizational-structure purposes. When you understand the core concept of transferable skills, this will enable you to feel more secure about your future.

In a recent conversation with a friend who is currently working as a retail-sales clerk, she described herself as “only a cashier.” It hurt me to hear her label herself in that way. She didn’t recognize that she has computing, mathematics, customer-service, and problem-solving skills—all of which are transferable. If you have the mindset that you are “only” your job title or you are “stuck” in a profession, then you limit your own potential. Your doubt becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The Importance of Transferable Skills

How exactly does the concept of transferable skills empower you over your future? Great question—let me share the benefits with you to help explain further:

  • Flexibility—Transferable skills, by definition, suit multiple positions and needs in a work environment. This naturally increases your value as an employee. To stay competitive in today’s job market, you make yourself stand out. If you can perform a variety of tasks, roles, and jobs, employers will seek you out and hold on to you longer.
  • Diversity—The more diverse your range of skills, the more valuable you are to a potential employer. Businesses want employees with a variety of experiences, knowledge foci, and the ability to adapt with new learning opportunities. The skills you have and are willing to acquire increase your worth to any company.
  • Transferable—Transferable skills are never lost, even if you lose a job. In fact, your transferable skills will exponentially increase throughout your career as you explore new positions. The more you work and seek out educational or training opportunities, the more skills you pick up, and the more they benefit your next job.
  • Employability—Build your CV around both job-specific and transferable skills. Focus on value to the employer more than fitting yourself into a specific role. Even if you don’t have a huge array of work experience, having transferable skills shows that you can adapt and thrive in any work setting.
  • Security—With a diverse range of transferable skills on your side, job security becomes more assured. No matter what happens to your current job role, whether you are made redundant or the position no longer exists, transferable skills act as a safety net. Finding new work becomes easier when you have portable skills clearly defined on your CV.

Top-10 Examples of Common and Desirable Transferable Skills

Even though most people have an abundance of transferable skills, you may not recognize what actually constitutes one. If you have any type of education and have held any job position in the past, you are almost guaranteed to have some of the most common and desirable portable skills on this list.

  • Business strategy—This is a fundamental skill if you are hoping to start or join a business. It involves planning steps, actions, and goals to demonstrate a company’s viability in a market. This is not an easy skill, but it is one that can be transferred across such a wide variety of jobs. If you have ever set up a side hustle like dog walking or mowing lawns in your younger years, you have acquired business-strategy skills. If it involved a starting point, planning, and any type of success with you making money, you can call it business strategy.
  • Team management and leadership—These transferable skills come from and assist with almost any job in the world. Have you ever been in charge of another employee? Have you ever led a team, even just for a small project? If you have experience in team leadership and believe that you possess the confidence, ability to delegate, authority, and conflict-resolution skills to continue to do so efficiently, then you can claim it as a transferable skill.
  • Problem-solving—This is another portable skill that can be acquired from all walks of life. Everyone experiences professional and interpersonal problems at work. How you deal with them can define you as either an excellent choice or one to pass over during the hiring process. Problem-solving requires a combination of both analytical and creative thinking and is one of the most sought-after skills an employer is looking for in an employee. Do you have the ability to find a solution for complex problems? Are you able to share examples effectively with potential employers?
  • Teamwork—Unless you are a solo entrepreneur, you have developed teamwork skills throughout your years of employment. Are you able to thrive in a team? Effective communication, team task management, and comfortably sharing responsibility and praise are all sought-after, transferable teamwork skills.
  • Data analysis—This transferable skill is a little more high-tech than some of the others in this list. However, data analysis touches many job positions, not just those in IT. This skill involves taking a set of data, reading it, and understanding it in such a way that it benefits the business. This could be as simple as looking at sales figures and realizing that if the company sells out of one product every month, it should stock more of said product.
  • Communication—The cornerstone of all relationships, personal and professional, is communication. Work tasks require collaboration with coworkers, concise reporting to management, and delegating respectfully to subordinates. Are you able to present information clearly? Can you communicate verbally and in written form to a professional standard? Then you can claim that you are a good communicator.
  • Time management—The ability to organize your schedule and responsibilities increases efficiency and productivity. It also boosts how reliable you are and how much of an asset you are to any project team. Do you complete your work in less time than needed? Are you able to prioritize urgent and important tasks above all else? Time management involves small things like handling extra work while waiting for your boss to reply to an important email and larger things like strategizing workload for a long-term project with a set deadline.
  • Work ethic—Although not as easily defined as other transferable skills, a strong work ethic tops the list of wants for many employers. Do you work as if you want to be there? Do you show pride and passion in your work? A strong work ethic is all about pushing yourself to be the best employee you can be. That means relishing a challenge, always getting your work done to the best of your ability, and showing commitment to your employer.
  • Commercial awareness—All businesses ultimately depend on sales of goods or services to create profits. Even if you are not directly involved with sales, understand the company’s commercial interests. This way, you can tailor your work accordingly and ensure that your output benefits the company when it comes to selling that product or service. You should know your employer’s business goals, competitors, priorities, and more.
  • Feedback—Are you a good listener? Every company prefers workers who pay attention, process information and instructions quickly and accurately, and ask for and provide feedback openly. One transferable skill that may get overlooked involves the ability to provide written or spoken reactions for all processes or ideas that may benefit the decision-making process.

Whether you want to make yourself vital to your existing employer or open up more possibilities with a strong CV in the future, identifying and advocating for your transferable skills will help you feel empowered and encouraged, and it will future-proof yourself. Transferable skills help you stay relevant and valuable in a globally competitive world.

Your call-to-action today is to take time to recognize your transferable skills. And then, share the concept of transferable skills with others; share the gift of freedom. After all, when we have a workforce that is worried about the future of their jobs, what better way to motivate them (and you) than to help recognize transferable skills!

About the Authors

Keith Keating
With a career spanning over 20 years in learning & development, Keith Keating holds a Master’s Degree in Leadership and has experience in a myriad of areas ranging from Instructional Design, Leadership Coaching, Operations Management, and Process Transformation. More recently Keith has been leading clients on the development and execution of their global learning strategies. Regardless of the role, at the heart of everything Keith does centers around problem solving. He studied Design Thinking at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and found Design Thinking was a perfect tool to add to his problem solving "toolkit". Since then, Keith has been utilizing Design Thinking to help clients tap into understanding and resolving unmet customer needs.

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