What Are Transferable Skills?

Definition & Examples of Transferable Skills

Young woman using a laptop to do work.
••• recep-bg / Getty Images

Transferable skills are talents and abilities that can be used in many different jobs and career paths. They can be acquired through employment, school, internships, hobbies, and volunteer experiences.

Learn more about transferable skills and how to put them to work for you.

What Are Transferable Skills?

Jobs require a combination of skills. Some are hard skills, which are teachable and easy to quantify, like being fluent in another language. Some are soft skills, which are harder-to-quantify skills like time management. Transferable skills can be hard or soft skills. What sets transferable skills apart is that they can be used in multiple career fields. For example, time management and language fluency are both useful in multiple fields.

How Transferable Skills Work

Consider your work history, school activities, and volunteer experiences. What skills have you consistently used? Most jobs require communication skills, for example. You might have developed skills in using Microsoft Office or a knack for managing teams.

Looking at job postings you're interested in can also help you think of transferable skills. What are potential employers looking for? Let's say an employer is looking for someone who can juggle multiple tasks. You might have done that in school, balancing academics with extracurricular activities, or in a previous job.

It's especially important to highlight your transferable skills if you're changing career fields. On your resume, work them into the descriptions of your previous experience, taking care to match the language the prospective employer uses in its job postings. You may want to use a functional resume format, which puts your transferable skills front and center.

Be sure to discuss your transferable skills in job interviews as well. Think of specific examples that you can cite to potential employers.

Examples of Transferable Skills

Having examples of transferable skills can help you round out your resume and brainstorm specific examples for interviews. Here are several categories of transferable skills.

General Skills

General skills are basic job skills that are essential to most positions. These include:

  • Listening skills
  • Understanding and carrying out written instructions
  • Observing and assessing your own and others' performances
  • Written communication skills
  • Basic math skills
  • Public speaking
  • Punctuality

Interpersonal Skills

Most positions involve working with others. You might be working with colleagues, managing other employees, or interacting with the public. Transferable people skills include:

  • Providing and accepting constructive criticism
  • Motivating others
  • Handling customer complaints
  • Training new employees
  • Delegating
  • Counseling employees
  • Building strong customer relationships
  • Collaborating with others
  • Mentoring less experienced colleagues
  • Resolving conflicts between colleagues and/or customers
  • Developing positive relationships with suppliers
  • Gaining the confidence of clients or customers

Management Skills

Management is also its own skillset. It takes a range of skills to manage a store, department, or branch, including:

  • Developing and overseeing a budget
  • Recruiting personnel
  • Reviewing resumes
  • Interviewing job candidates
  • Selecting new hires
  • Supervising employees
  • Scheduling personnel
  • Leading productive meetings
  • Negotiating contracts
  • Evaluating employees
  • Identifying and presenting problems to upper management

Clerical Skills

Clerical and administrative skills are needed in most fields. Transferable skills in this area include:

  • Designing and maintaining correspondence and reports
  • Managing records
  • Familiarity with Microsoft Office programs
  • Performing data entry
  • Keeping track of accounts receivable, accounts payable, billing, and other bookkeeping tasks
  • Screening and transferring telephone calls
  • Greeting visitors
  • Using office equipment such as printers, copiers, and fax machines

Research and Planning Skills

Employers want employees who can take initiative. Showing your research and planning skills can demonstrate that you're motivated. These skills include:

  • Anticipating and preventing problems from occurring or reoccurring
  • Using critical thinking skills to make decisions or evaluate possible solutions to problems 
  • Solving problems
  • Defining the organization's or department's needs
  • Setting goals
  • Prioritizing tasks
  • Locating and reaching out to suppliers or sub-contractors
  • Analyzing information and forecast results
  • Managing your time and meeting deadlines
  • Planning and implementing events and activities
  • Creating and implementing new policies and procedures
  • Coordinating and developing programs
  • Documenting procedures and results
  • Conducting research using the internet and library resources

Computer and Technical Skills

It's difficult to understate the importance of computer and technical skills in today's job market. Being able to master one program shows you can master other programs. Transferable computer and technical skills include:

  • Using job-related software
  • Using job-related equipment and machinery
  • Installing software on computers
  • Troubleshooting problems with hardware and software
  • Installing equipment
  • Maintaining equipment
  • Inspecting equipment to identify problems
  • Designing and maintaining websites

Key Takeaways

  • Transferable skills can be used in many different jobs and career paths. 
  • Transferable skills can be hard skills, which are easy to quantify, and soft skills, which are harder-to-quantify skills like time management. 
  • You may have transferable skills from previous jobs, school, or volunteer work. 
  • Transferable skills fall into several categories, including interpersonal skills, clerical skills, and management skills. 
  • Highlighting your transferable skills is helpful when you're changing careers.