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Exactly how to think about every skill you’ve ever built and showcase it in a job search

Transferable skills come from life and career experiences, but they can become part of your personal brand with a little bit of framing.

Exactly how to think about every skill you’ve ever built and showcase it in a job search
[Photo: MirageC/Getty Images]

What does it take to be a successful candidate? A college degree? Won’t hurt. Prior job-related experience? Still a big talent pool to beat there. Not too long ago, hiring managers placed a precedent on soft skills when hiring talent. In fact, a 2019 study found that 92% of talent professionals and hiring managers agree that candidates with strong soft skills are increasingly important. Before this, employers focused primarily on a candidate’s ability to contribute hard skills such as how well they can write, code, use Microsoft Suite, etc. 

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Now employers and hiring managers are looking for well-rounded candidates. Not only do they want the candidate to be an excellent accountant, but they also want that individual to demonstrate solid communications skills. Furthermore, after surviving a pandemic, employers are eager to hear about a candidate’s life and career skills, among other transferable skills. 

What are transferable skills?

Technically they’re the skills that can be “transported” from one job or one company to another that can be useful in your next role. They’re life skills like problem solving and self-awareness that intersect with career skills like leadership and critical thinking. In the tech industry, for example, someone who sits in the corner buried in code might not be as valuable as the person who can listen, absorb, and execute with the rest of the team. 

How to think about your skills in a transferable way

Life skills: The pandemic impacted the way we work. Those who balanced the hybrid work environments’ demand for intuition and depth required a conscious effort to be considerate and patient with colleagues and customers. Others, who may have balanced their job while stay-at-home parents, can highlight newly developed skills such as having your home in order,  project management, working under high pressure, and organizational skills all of which are transferable to the workforce. Personal priorities and relationships with others have changed with the pandemic and the life skills we’ve acquired can be appealing to recruiters. 

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Career skills: Have you considered breaking into a new industry or transitioning roles entirely? You’re not alone. 49% of American workers said they’ve made a dramatic career shift since the start of the pandemic. Today, we’re seeing candidates with ten to 30 years of experience specializing in one skill pivoting to build something brand new. Look at your existing career skills and identify how they can support your new role, directly or indirectly. Perhaps it gives you a different perspective on how to approach solutions. If you are an individual looking to get out of a traditional 9 am to 5 pm role and transition to flexible hours, note that to your recruiter or prospective employer, willingness to adapt is a major plus.  

Soft skills: Soft skills can be essential in a working environment. Are you a candidate who can demonstrate effective communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and time management skills in addition to being able to perform your administrative duties? When it comes time to interview, note examples of past experiences. 

Hard skills: These are the essential skills required to perform your role. Examples include technical, computer, analytical, marketing, presentation, and management skills depending on your field of work.

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Know thyself, transferably

Unfortunately, job seekers are having trouble identifying their individual sets of transferable skills. LiveCareer surveyed more than 1,500 people who have been unemployed within the last two years and found that a majority of them (57%) cannot identify their own transferable skills and don’t know how to apply them if they did find a new job. Fortunately, there are some tools to help solve both problems:

  1. Take an online assessment. A simple Google search will turn up literally dozens of transferable skill assessments. Most job search sites have one. The one I found to be the most complete and helpful comes from Princeton University
  2. Review your life skills. Make a list of challenges, recent or long ago. Better still, make a list of crises you’ve gone through. You will usually find unique skills that enabled you to overcome those challenges, and this can become a good list to start with. Make sure you err on the side of relevance. For example, parenting skills or travel experiences are great; but patience and organization are the life skills. 
  3. Draw the skill to the job. If you don’t make the connection to work, your transferable skills will read like a dating profile. Connecting them to the work environment is essential, and not limited to job seekers. The entry-level sales representative may find that he or she has above average close rates from cold calling. That turns “good communicator” or “works well under pressure” into a viable reason for a raise or a promotion. 
  4. Prove it. Nothing like a volunteer job or extracurricular activity in your personal life or at work to back up the presentation of your transferable skills. If you’re the aforementioned coder who can’t relate to people, maybe volunteering for a high school STEM program will be the bridge to a more diverse skill set. 

Transferable skills come from life and career experiences, but they can become part of your personal brand with a little bit of framing. The company you will work for—or work for currently—will be thankful you did. 


Jeanniey Walden is the chief innovation and marketing officer at DailyPay.

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