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What Are Transferable Skills and Why Are They Important?

What Are Transferable Skills and Why Are They Important?

Over the course of your life, you have picked up habits, abilities, and skills that allow you to succeed in the workplace, regardless of what title you hold, the organization you work for, or the industry you work in. These are called transferable skills. Transferable skills are what an eager graduate needs to land their first “real job,” an experienced leader needs to make a radical career change, or a parent who’s been out of the workforce needs to return successfully.

In the following article, we’ll review the definition of transferable skills, their importance, and a list of example transferable skills, as well as provide you with a transferable skills checklist to work through on your own. Let’s begin.


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What Are Transferable Skills?

As the name suggests, transferable skills can be transferred to any job, company, or industry. Communication, leadership, and time management are all examples of transferable skills. These skills are not only instrumental to your success, but oftentimes they are what makes it possible for you to step into roles, departments, or industries you may not otherwise have an exhaustive list of requirements for.

You will acquire transferable skills in a number of different ways, with the primary way being time and experience. From the time you took your first job at a local fast-food restaurant or volunteered as a camp counselor, you have been honing your transferable skills simply through experience and will continue to do so for the rest of your life. Of course, transferable skills are also acquired through intentional development activities in the workplace, such as training, coaching, job enrichment, and mentoring.


The Importance of Transferrable Skills

Transferable skills are universally important. They contribute not only to your success but the success of your team, customers, or organization. They allow you to take control over your career trajectory 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.


Real-Life Transferable Skills Examples

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


University of Alberta

In 2022, Deanna Davis, a Senior Consultant of Organizational Development and Human Resources at the University of Alberta, conducted “a campus-wide needs analysis to examine training our campus community considered most critical in our current context.” Based on the findings, a program was created and offered to all university employees to help them develop the following six transferable skills:

  • Working with others
  • Communication
  • Personal effectiveness
  • Problem-solving and innovation
  • Process excellence
  • Hybrid workplace


Bank of Montreal (BMO)

In a blog by Mary Edwards, the Senior Talent Advisor for North America at BMO, one of Canada’s Big Five Banks, she notes, “You might be surprised to learn that many of your transferable skills can be applied to an exciting career at BMO. Our recruiters help everyone from military veterans to technology professionals who want to make the leap.” Here are the eight specific transferable skills she points out:

  • Communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Curiosity and lifelong learning
  • Resilience
  • Empathy
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Adaptability
  • Technological literacy


Government of Canada

According to the Government of Canada, there are nine transferable skills all public sector, private sector, and non-profit employees need “to better prepare for, get and keep a job, and adapt and succeed” in the Canadian labor market. They even have a program called Skills for Success that is designed to help individuals hone those skills. The nine transferable skills include:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Numeracy
  • Digital literacy
  • Problem-solving
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Adaptability
  • Creativity and innovation


Next Steps: Transferable Skills Checklist

In a 2020 study of over 1,500 workers who were displaced because of the pandemic, 57% said they couldn’t identify their transferable skills with a high degree of confidence, and 58% said they weren’t sure how to include transferable skills on their resume.

Transferable Skills ChecklistEven now, if that sounds familiar, then consider taking an inventory of your transferable skills. To help you do so, use this Transferable Skills Checklist. As you read through each of the skills listed, put a check if you have mastered it and a star if it’s something you need to work on. Once you have done this, you can update your individual development plan to reflect your findings and seek out additional training or coaching to support the development of said skills.

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