Articulate December 2017

Career Catalyst: Identifying and Communicating Your Transferable Skills


Written By: Craig Petrus, Executive Director OF Career Services, University of Florida, Warrington College of Business

Transferable skills are those that can be utilized in any job function, industry, or task that you are asked to perform.

Whether you are looking to leave your current company for a new one, or you are up for a promotion at your current employer, one often wonders if they are truly qualified for that new job or promotion. Don’t let doubt creep into your mindset. It is all about how you think and approach this new career opportunity that will help you make your case that indeed, you are a great fit for this next career move. It all comes down to connecting the dots between the job and the specific set of transferable skills that you have to offer. 

Transferable skills are those that can be utilized in any job function, industry, or task that you are asked to perform. You may not realize it, but we all possess transferable skills that can have an impact in some way, shape or form on our performance. It is all how we present them to a future employer or manager that make the difference between you receiving that next job or not. So, what are those transferable skills that you actually possess? Here are a few examples of some of the most common, along with ways in which to communicate them.

Problem Solving

From the moment we wake up in the morning, we are constantly solving problems. Both at home and at work, our mind is set to react and figure out solutions to those every day challenges we face. Now, think about a typical “day in the life” of “You, Inc.” and all those issues you face and have to react to. In essence, you are acting as a problem solver, a transferable skill set that can be equated to any career opportunity regardless of industry or function. So how do you connect the dots and communicate this in an effective way? Think about the past year of your work-life. What were the two or three hardest challenges you faced and the solutions you came up with. What did you specifically do to solve these problems? What was the thought-process that you embarked on to overcome these challenges. What was the positive result? These are the types of problem-solving stories you want to communicate in your interview.   

Project Management

Whether you sell a product for a living, or you work as a doctor to save people’s lives, our careers for the most part are broken down into projects. From one sale to the next, or from one patient to the other, think about your daily work as mini projects that you have to manage. Approaching your work-day in this way will allow you to pin-point those significant projects that led up to you accomplishing your daily goals. Projects do not necessarily have to be large-scale. They can be as simple as market research projects, prospecting initiatives, organizing events, developing marketing or sales strategies or working on budgets. Whatever the project may be, you are constantly managing something on a daily basis that can be translated into a really great project management related story. 

Communicating with others

We all have our unique ways in which we communicate with those around us. What are yours? Think about how in the past you got your message across to those you are trying to reach. When your message had been received correctly, what did you do to communicate that message and how did you do it? What median did you use that was effective, telephone, email or in person? What specific content did you communicate? Why was it so effective? Communicate those times when you were effective at communicating with others and what it resulted in. Tell that story. In addition, communicate to others how you yourself would like to be communicated to, so as to create a narrative around a holistic approach to effective communication. 

Team Work

As they say, there is no “I” in team. One cannot be successful without collaborating with successful people around them. Think about those times you had to collaborate with team members in an effort to accomplish a goal. The important thing to keep in mind here, is what you specifically did with your team that made a positive impact on achieving success. Communicate those specific actions that you took that led this team to accomplish something special. Furthermore, did you have to collaborate with other team members outside of your department, within another function or even globally? Working on cross-functional teams is a unique experience that not a lot of people possess. If you are able to share your successful experiences in this scenario, you will win points in the eyes of your future manager. Lastly, be ready for that interview question that tests your ability to work with team members that are difficult or challenging. How did you navigate the situation and what was the successful result. Managers want to be confident in your ability to work with others around you that may not be like you, those that may be difficult to work with. Communicate your ability to achieve success in situations like these as well.   

Creativity

We are all full of great ideas, we just need to share them with others. This is where your creativity comes in. Look back at your career and think about those situations where you had to become creative in solving a problem, creating a new process, generating a new idea or ways to go to market with an initiative. While you may look at creativity and think that is not you, don’t sell yourself short. There are many moments in your career that can be defined as creative. Just like being a problem solver, I’m sure there are many instances where you have overcome a challenge by being creative. Think back to those times, write them down and utilize them in your interview archive of START stories (Situation, Task, Action, Result, Tie-Back). 

Putting it all together

Now that you have spent time identifying those transferable skills that you possess, how do you know if they will be transferable to the job or promotion you are chasing after? How do you know if they are applicable to your next job or hiring manager? One way to find out is to literally dissect, with a highlighter, the job description of the position you are seeking. Focusing on both the technical and non-technical aspects of the job description, take a highlighter and highlight those skills that you feel you can confidently communicate a story around. What you are basically doing is connecting the dots towards what that job description is telling you, and what you want to communicate in return. This way, your focus is specifically targeting the skills that your future employer/hiring manager seeks. Help them make their analysis of you as a candidate easier, by helping them understand how your transferable skills directly relate to what they seek, regardless of how it is communicated on the job description itself.

At the end of the day, it is your job to communicate to your future manager why you are a good fit for the job. Give them reasons to believe! We all possess transferable skills to be competitive for many different careers, we just need to take time and effort to identify them and communicate them in a way that is effective. 

 

CRAIG W. PETRUS joined the Warrington College of Business in June of 2009. As Executive Director, Craig is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Business Career Services Office and ensuring the delivery of quality career development programming and services to students within the College of Business at the University of Florida.

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