What Are Transferable Skills? Understanding What Makes Work and Job Skills Transferable

Chelsy Meyer  | 

Your skill set is not just a matter of certificates, degrees, and credentials. There are plenty of skills that you’ll gain throughout your life in various other settings that will be applicable at work or on a resume. Many of these are your transferable skills. The more you gain, the greater the narrative of development will be for your future employers. Even if you don’t have a lot of working experience, transferable skills can help bridge the gaps between unemployment or work experience that is not obviously related to the job you’re trying to get.

What Are Transferable Skills?

Transferable skills are the knowledge and abilities you possess that can apply to many different jobs and industries. Because they are so broad, they can be obtained through a variety of different situations: work, school, charity work, hobbies, extracurriculars, etc.

Transferable skills are often skills considered to be soft skills. Soft skills are skills that are more closely tied to a person’s personality or culture fit, and less tied to a person’s education or training. However, they can sometimes be hard skills as well. The most important attribute of a transferable skill is its ability to span many different situations and various industries.

Why Transferable Skills Are Important

Transferable skills are important because they turn your experiences into value for employers. Think of them as a way of summarizing what you’ve learned, achieved, and mastered in a general way so that your experiences seem more relevant to other positions and employers. For example, a restaurant will likely have a different cash register than a retailer does, but you can still describe your experience handling money and using a point of sales system to show you understand how to function in either environment, even if you’ve only worked in one or the other.

Transferable skills add meat to your resume and can often make up for a lack of employment history. Your education, volunteering, and extracurriculars are not unimportant just because they are not professional work experience. Your transferable skills make these experiences relevant. You can talk about handling deadlines, dealing with customers and coworkers, leading a team, or even punctuality — these are all important features of a job that can be relevant to employers, but you don’t need to have a job to learn and demonstrate them. Whether you have minimal work experience, or your experience doesn’t immediately seem relevant, your transferable skills can work to convey your passions, interests, and abilities. These transferable skills show the type of employee you’ll be and how much you’ve developed in the experience you’ve had.  

Transferable Skills List and Examples

There are many different types of transferable skills. These skills span a variety of different types of employment and career industries. Though specialized skills have their place in terms of importance as well, transferable skills are highly valuable despite being top funnel.  

Customer Service Skills

Customer service skills are all about how to help the consumers that your employer relies on. Customer service skills require patience, being friendly, conflict resolution, and being able to troubleshoot. You can lean how to provide great customer service in a variety of ways from food service to retail work, or even boy scouts and volunteer work.

Technical/Computer Skills

Technical skills and even basic computer skills are interesting because they are both highly transferable and are also considered to be hard skills. Hard skills aren’t always as transferable as softer skills because they tend to be more specialized. However, we are in a technological age. For that reason, these types of tech skills will be valuable in nearly every industry that utilizes computer skills in any capacity.  

Leadership Skills

Leaders motivate people, are decisive, are great planners, are self-motivated, work well in a team, and know how to solve problems. This soft skill set is highly transferable because so many industries and employers are looking for people who can move up within their company. These skills can be obtained in many different career fields regardless of similarity to the job you’re applying for. They can also be obtained or showcased through thing like sports, organizing volunteer opportunities, or even tutoring in school.

Communication Skills

Communication is so important that it can be a hard or soft skill, depending on the type of communication you’re referencing. Not only that, but it’s highly transferable and can be obtained in a wide variety of ways. Good communicators are great for customer-facing positions as well as a role that is more interdepartmental. They are attentive, articulate, and tend to be great teachers. Just remember, your skills will be something prospective employers will look for in an interview if you list them as a skill on your resume, so be sure to be prepared in your interview.  

Learning Skills

The ability to learn and adapt is such an important transferable skill to have. From an employer’s perspective, it shows that you may not have as much experience or as many hard skills, but you’re willing and able to learn quickly. In fact, having a variety of different interests and work experience shows that you have had experience in learning many different things. For instance, working in sales, helping to build houses for charity, playing baseball in college, tutoring math, and learning about computers as a hobby show a wide variety of learning skills.  

How To List Transferable Skills on Your Resume

Knowing how to list your transferable skills on your resume will have a lot to do with each job you’re applying for. With each position, you’ll want to customize your resume or job application to match the job posting. Applicant tracking systems utilize a series of keywords associated with the job description to scan your resume before it will even get to a recruiter. Be sure to mirror your keywords with theirs.

Otherwise, listing your transferable skills on your resume can be done in a variety of different ways. Find your weak points and use your transferable skills to bridge the gap in your missing experience and create a narrative that will show prospective employers the transferable skills you’ve gained. This is a useful tactic in explaining an employment gap to recruiters. Associate your skills with each experience in your history. For example, anchoring certain learning or communication skills with your time tutoring or volunteering. Your transferable skills should show your development and self-improvement despite a checkered job history.

Transferable skills are great because they are versatile and therefore applicable to many different types of career opportunities. Not only are they helpful for prospective employers to see, but they are also helpful for you to be a more well-rounded asset no matter which way your career takes you. Even if your work experience isn’t closely related to the job you’re looking for, your transferable skills will help you to qualify for it even if your hard skills aren’t there yet.


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Chelsy is a writer from Montana who now lives in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012. She enjoys talk radio, cold coffee, and playing Frisbee with her dog, Titan. Follow Chelsy on Twitter @Chelsy5

This post was updated October 17, 2018. It was originally published October 1, 2018.