10 Steps for Identifying Your Transferable Job Skills

(Editor’s Note: Today’s post is brought to you by Capella University. Capella is an accredited online university dedicated to providing an exceptional, professionally-aligned education that puts you in the best position to succeed in your field. They offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees as well as certificate programs for human resources and business professionals. Enjoy the post!)

When you think about the jobs you’ve had over the years, do you know the reason you were selected? I remember years ago, I went to work at an airline. After a few months of working there, my boss told me why she hired me. “Because you didn’t have any airline experience.” She wanted someone who knew HR and could provide a fresh set of eyes about HR in that industry.

Given the conversation about transforming human resources, it wouldn’t be a surprise that some organizations will want to hire professionals with human resources knowledge but limited experience. Or professionals with experience in another industry. They can provide a fresh set of eyes to policies, procedures, etc.

For candidates, this means being able to identify and sell the transferable job skills you’ve acquired along the way (in other roles and industries) during the hiring process. Here are ten steps to show you how to do it:

  1. Define what your skills are. This might sound very basic but you won’t be able to figure out your transferable job skills if you can’t identify a skill (versus knowledge or abilities.) Here’s something I wrote a while ago that defines each.
  2. Analyze your current and previous jobs. What are the common skills across each? This can help you notice those skills that might be transferrable to any job.
  3. Review your past performance. What did your managers say you did really well? And what are those areas you need to improve? It can offer you some perspective on those skills that others associate with you.
  4. Have an honest moment with yourself. What do you like to do? It makes no sense to sell transferable job skills you don’t enjoy.
  5. Understand what skills are required in your desired role (and the industry you’re considering.) For example, in human resources you can turn to the SHRM book, “Defining HR Success: 9 Critical Competencies for HR Professionals” which outlines the competency model or the HR competency model developed by Dave Ulrich.
  6. Match your top skills with the skills required in the job. Those common skills are the transferable ones. At this point, don’t worry about the number of skill-matches. Take time to look at the list before moving on to the next step.
  7. Then consider grouping your transferrable job skills into easy to remember terms. Maybe no more than five. That way, during an interview, you can count off your identifiable skills on one hand – it will be easy to remember. For example, the five groups could be leadership, communication, problem solving, creativity and teamwork. If listening is one of your transferable skills, it can be grouped with communication. Or conflict management skills can be grouped with problem solving.
  8. For each grouping, think of a story that demonstrates you have the skill. For instance, with the airline, I once worked on a project team to figure out what happened to luggage that went missing at the airport. It’s a story that shows people I can work on a team, with individuals from all over the organization.
  9. Practice telling the story. You don’t need to practice for memorization or “show.” Practice the story to remember the details, which in this case are your results (i.e. your successes.) You also want to practice so you can tell the story succinctly. This can’t be a 30-minute story. It should be a couple minute story.
  10. Tell your story. During interviews, if you don’t get asked a question that allows you to tell the stories, then wait for the often used wrap up question “Is there anything else you’d like to share?” and tell one of your stories.

This not only works during external interviews when you might be changing companies but for internal interviews, when you might be seeking a promotion or transfer. The bottom-line is taking the time to understand your transferable job skills helps you in the role you currently have, jobs you might pursue in the future, and throughout your professional development. Speaking of which…

I hope you can join me and the Capella University team for a webinar on January 20 at 12 Noon Eastern on “5 Ways to Master Learning Agility.” Registration details can be found here. Having a great list of transferable skills is important but we all know that’s not the end of our development. We need to learn new skills to stay relevant.