What are transferable job skills, and how to make the most of them?

Your transferable job skills are critical to your success in finding and keeping a job. You have to convince employers of the skills you have, and which ones are best suited to the new role you are seeking. This is vital in the current volatile job market.

Transferable skills are especially relevant now as many US workers participate in the legendary “Great Resignation.” NPR reports in a 2022 article that “most Americans quitting their jobs merely seem to be aiming to get better jobs…It’s pretty standard to see a swell of workers quitting their jobs for greener pastures when the job market is strong and there are lots of shiny opportunities available” (although the global employment outlook looks uncertain due to the pandemic and Vladimir Putin).

Demonstrating a strong job market, the US unemployment rate fell to 3.8% in February 2022, and “hiring has remained strong in the ebb and flow of successive waves of the pandemic,” according to the New York Times in March 2022. In this strongly competitive jobs market, the more skills you have that match the requirements of the position, the better your chances are.

What are transferable skills?

But, what does ‘transferable’ actually mean, and how can you find out what skills you have? Transferable skills are at the core of all professions. They are the foundation skills in the job you have, and are applicable to all jobs you will ever have. All transferable job skills are interconnected.

Different sources include different sets of skills. For instance, a 2018 Forbes article refers to 7 transferable skills or transferable categories of skills:

  • Technical
  • Communication
  • Critical Thinking
  • Multitasking
  • Teamwork
  • Creativity
  • Leadership

The 4 most important transferable skills

However, some of these may be considered to overlap. Many experts consider the 4 most essential transferable skills needed for any job are:

1. Critical thinking

Critical thinking refers to analyzing information objectively and making a reasoned judgment. Critical thinking is a skill that allows you to make intelligent decisions based on available data.

Critical thinking is helpful in almost any type of job, whether you’re trying to solve a complex problem at work or helping clients navigate their options as they make a big decision.

Thinking critically about something helps you ask questions about what you encounter, consider alternative explanations for information and integrate new knowledge with your current understanding.

2. Teamwork and collaboration

Teamwork involves working well with others in a group setting instead of just working independently or competitively. This is especially important in the new COVID world in which teams need to work together in remote or hybrid mode.

True collaboration occurs when everyone on a team feels empowered to speak up, share their opinions, and openly debate without fear of being shut down or punished for voicing a dissenting view.

The best teams are made up of individuals with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives who feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and challenging each other.

3. Communication

Being able to communicate effectively with others is another highly valued transferable skill – and should be core to all professional communicators. This job skill includes both verbal and written communication, as well as active listening skills and application. Also, you need to be familiar with digital communication skills – your ability to evaluate the requirements, strengths and weaknesses of various communication options, and to choose the channels most appropriate to your audiences and messages.

Clearly, excellent communication skills are imperative to any job or career in the communication profession. You need to engage in effective two-way communication at all levels of the stakeholders you deal with.

Communication is an essential soft skill in the workplace because it helps you solve problems, build relationships, and prevent conflict.

4. Problem-solving

Problem-solving means that you can use logic, analysis, and creativity to identify solutions when confronted with obstacles. Once you get into the habit of approaching problems with a calm, cool head, you’ll find that they don’t seem quite so intimidating anymore.

The good news is that there are specific techniques you can use to become better at problem-solving. Instead of just following your intuition, you can follow a set process that can lead you to better insights and more effective solutions.

For instance, the free Wonderlic practice test with answers can help you perform better under pressure by measuring your problem-solving skills.

Bottom line

So, how can you improve your transferable skills? You can start by adopting the mindset of lifelong learning – seeking to learn new knowledge and work skills every day. My article, “Gain more skills – or your career will crash,” gives some useful insights into this. You can also seek more opportunities to learn a new skill by speaking with people and pushing yourself outside your comfort zone.

After all, you never know when that skill will become helpful. Transferable skills are crucial to any field, and they can be vital to your career path.

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