What Are Transferable Skills?

Abilities You Can Take With You

Businesswoman looking at a tablet on a balcony and considering her transferable skills.

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Put to rest your fear that you will have to leave your current skills behind if you quit your job or change careers. You will be able to take many of them with you in the form of transferable skills. These are the talents and abilities that can travel with you when you make a transition to a new job or career.

Below are 87 common transferable skills divided into six broad categories: Basic, People, Management, Clerical, Research and Planning, and Computer and Technical Skills. Also included are some skills that are particular to specific occupations. These are called hard skills.

Which of these transferable skills have you acquired through prior employment, school, apprenticeships, internships, formal and informal training, hobbies, and volunteer experiences?

Basic Skills

  • Use listening skills to understand oral instructions
  • Learn new procedures
  • Understand and carry out written instructions
  • Orally convey information to others
  • Observe and assess your own and others' performances
  • Communicate in writing
  • Use mathematical processes to solve problems
  • Speak in public
  • Demonstrate professionalism

People Skills

  • Provide constructive criticism
  • Receive feedback
  • Coordinate actions with other people's actions
  • Negotiate, persuade, and influence people
  • Motivate others
  • Handle complaints
  • Train or teach new skills
  • Delegate work
  • Oversee others' work
  • Perform outreach
  • Counsel people
  • Build strong customer relationships
  • Collaborate with others
  • Mentor less experienced colleagues
  • Resolve conflicts
  • Develop relationships with suppliers
  • Demonstrate comfort when dealing with all people
  • Gain clients' or customers' confidence

Management Skills

  • Oversee budgets
  • Recruit personnel
  • Review resumes
  • Interview job candidates
  • Select new hires
  • Supervise employees
  • Allocate resources such as equipment, materials, and facilities
  • Schedule personnel
  • Preside over meetings
  • Negotiate contracts
  • Evaluate employees
  • Organize committees

Clerical Skills

  • Perform general clerical and administrative support tasks
  • Design forms, correspondence, and reports
  • Manage records
  • Take minutes at meetings
  • Use word processing software
  • Use database management software
  • Use spreadsheet software
  • Use desktop publishing software
  • Use presentation software
  • Perform data entry
  • Keep track of accounts receivable, accounts payable, billing, and other bookkeeping tasks
  • Screen telephone calls
  • Greet visitors

Research and Planning Skills

  • Identify and present problems to upper management
  • Anticipate and prevent problems from occurring or reoccurring
  • Use critical thinking skills to make decisions or evaluate possible solutions to problems 
  • Solve problems
  • Deal with unexpected situations
  • Define the organization's or department's needs
  • Set goals
  • Prioritize tasks
  • Locate and reach out to suppliers or sub-contractors
  • Analyze information and forecast results
  • Manage your time and meet deadlines
  • Plan and implement events and activities
  • Create and implement new policies and procedures
  • Develop a budget
  • Coordinate and develop programs
  • Document procedures and results
  • Produce reports
  • Conduct research using the Internet and library resources
  • Generate ideas
  • Implement new strategies

Computer and Technical Skills:

  • Use computer software that is related to job
  • Use job-related equipment and machinery
  • Install software on computers
  • Use the Internet, including email and search engines
  • Use office equipment such as printers, copiers, and fax machines
  • Troubleshoot problems with hardware and software
  • Install equipment
  • Troubleshoot problems with and repair equipment
  • Maintain equipment
  • Inspect equipment to identify problems

Additional Skills:

  • Demonstrate fluency or working knowledge of a foreign language
  • Demonstrate fluency or working knowledge of sign language
  • Fundraise
  • Write grants
  • Design websites

What Are Your Transferable Skills?

Now it's your turn. Use this as a jumping-off point to write a complete list of your transferable skills. Since it is unlikely for any individual to have all these skills, choose only the ones that match your skillset. It is likely you also have other skills that haven't been included here, for example, the hard or technical skills that are specific to your area of expertise.

Once you have everything written down in one place, assess your marketability to potential employers. One simple way to do this is to find announcements for jobs in which you would be interested. Compare your qualifications to those listed in them. Do you have the skills those employers are seeking? Are there any gaps you will need to address by getting additional training, education, and experience?

Use Your Transferable Skills to Market Yourself to Prospective Employers

Your resume should demonstrate to prospective employers that you are a qualified job candidate. This is where your transferable skills come in. Work them into your job descriptions taking care to match the language you use to the language the employer uses in its job announcements.

Be sure to discuss your transferable skills in job interviews as well. When you answer potential employers' questions, talk about those that are relevant to the positions for which you are applying.