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What Are Transferable Skills and Why Are They Important?

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Over the course of your professional and personal life, you have picked up habits, abilities, and skills that make you the employee you are today. These are called transferable skills. They are the skills that allow an eager, younger graduate to land their first “real job.” Or an experienced people manager to make a radical career change. Or a parent who has been out of the workforce for months or years, to return successfully. 

WHAT ARE TRANSFERABLE SKILLS?

In the simplest terms, transferable skills allow you to succeed in your role, whatever it may be, as they are skills that are needed independent of the job function. If you think about some of the examples mentioned above, transferable skills allow individuals to step into roles, industries, or departments they may not otherwise have the exhaustive list of requirements for. 

Transferable skills are acquired through experience, time, and development opportunities, such as training, one to one coaching, mentoring. By time and experience, we mean that you have been building these skills since you took your first job at a local fast-food restaurant or volunteered as a camp counselor, and you will continue to hone them for the rest of your life.

Learn what skills you need to excel as a leader in the guide to people  management.
Example Transferable skills

If you look at as many studies and articles as we did while writing this blog, you will find commonalities among the lists. Here is a list of transferable skills that appeared more than once, and for good reason.

Adaptability and Resilience - In the wake of COVID-19, any resembling feeling of security or predictability is pretty much gone. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow, let alone six months or six years from now. In the face of this, employees today who are adaptable and resilient are the ones who will keep businesses moving forward even in the face of uncertainty. 

Critical Thinking - Critical thinking in the workplace means using all credible sources of information available to understand a situation or problem, ultimately to make an informed decision or judgment. As you can imagine, this is a transferable skill that pays off to have in employees at all levels as it drives innovation, productivity, and often competitiveness in the market.

Initiative - An employee who takes initiative is able to assess a situation, problem, or project, and initiate action before they ever need to be told to do so. Of course, initiative should be taken within reason and with regard for established boundaries. 

Resourcefulness - A resourceful employee who can find a way to achieve a goal with the time, staff, technology, or budget they have, is a valuable asset to any organization or department. 

Creativity and Innovation - Creativity and innovation are not just skills reserved for graphic designers or product developers. A creative and innovative employee looks at a problem and can see a solution others may not have, which is transferable throughout one’s career.

Leadership - Anyone can show leadership. No title required. Leaders take charge of situations, provide vision and direction, coach team members, and keep an eye on the big picture to ensure the determined goals are met. This is a transferable skill that will be highly valued by any organization, regardless of the job you hold. 

Emotional Intelligence - Emotional Intelligence combines the ability to identify, harness, and manage emotions. This requires related skills such as empathy, self-awareness, and influence, and is extremely important for those in roles managing people. 

Communication - Communication always has been and always will be one of the top transferable skills. But with more people working from home than ever and in teams, the flow of information is imperative to keep businesses moving. Therefore, a good communicator will be able to communicate clearly, accurately, and in a timely manner regardless if they are on Zoom or face-to-face.

Teamwork and Collaboration - According to multiple Deloitte studies, organizations have identified the benefits of team-centric and network-based organizational models and are working to adapt it for themselves. As this way of working becomes even more prevalent, team-focused and collaborative individuals will be highly valued.

 

So, Why Are Transferable Skills Important?

Transferable skills are universally important. They contribute not only to your success, but the success of a team, customer, or organization. They allow you to take control over your career path and ease the stress experienced in transitional times, such as a promotion or career change. In a way, these are skills that never “go out of style.” They will follow and support your success professionally, so long as you invest and put intentional effort into honing them. This can be done by taking business training programs related to a certain skill, tapping into a professional coach, working with a mentor, and fully participating in any development opportunities your organization offers.

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