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Do you have this year’s most sought-after transferable skills?

20 Aug 2019

Your skills might not always be used in the same way in different jobs, but knowing their worth and flexibility is important.

Have you ever worried about your college course or your Leaving Certificate subject choices, because you’re not sure if you’ll learn the right skills for what you want to do afterwards in your career?

A concern for many is becoming pigeonholed, where the skills you learn lead you to increasingly specialised roles, limiting what you can do if you need a change. This is pretty common, according to Balance Careers, which noted that the average person can expect to change jobs 12 times during their career.

It can be frustrating to be tired of your job but not know where to move or, in many cases, where to even begin looking. It might seem as though a significant move will require you to go back to school and pore over textbooks, but something crucial is left behind by this thought process: the skills you already have and how applicable they may be to different career paths.

Transferable skills

Skills can come from a whole host of different places, with prior employment as the obvious source, but they’re also cultivated during apprenticeships, internships, formal and informal training and education, and hobbies. Just because you developed teamwork skills while playing football doesn’t mean you can’t apply those same principles to your professional work.

It all comes down to skill transferability. Granted, transferable skills might not always be used in exactly the same way in every job, but their flexibility can be invaluable.

A person typically has various sets of skills, and though everyone will have different combinations based on their education and experiences, they can largely be categorised in the same way. Basic skills include those as simple as reading, listening and writing, while the likes of people skills, management skills and more technical skills will be linked to your specific area of expertise.

What skills you choose to show off is dependent on the time and place. You shouldn’t shy away from presenting a good overview of your knowledge and capabilities on your CV, but the most important skills are often those that are transferable to different roles.

From Google Maps to criminal justice

One example is the Google product manager who moved from working on Google Maps to state criminal justice agencies, helping them reduce incarceration in the US. Clementine Jacoby, interviewed by Fast Company, talked about how her abilities in problem-solving, prediction, monitoring impacts, targets and goals, data analytics and processing, automation and coding enabled her to move into a new line of work.

She shows that working in two very different roles can actually utilise many of the same skills. Of course, lifelong learning is always beneficial to a career, but being able to bring your talents along as you transition to a new job is just as important.

What does a career coach say?

Including transferable skills on a job application could show prospective employers that you’re flexible and creative enough to apply your knowledge to the tasks at hand. Similarly, in job interviews it’s important to talk about the skills that could be relevant to the position.

Writing for Forbes, career coach and recruiter Caroline Ceniza-Levine made it clear that it’s up to the candidate to demonstrate the transferability of their skills.

She advised establishing three conditions:

  1. You have the skill you claim
  2. You understand how the skill is useful to the new industry or role
  3. You can show how you would apply that skill to the new industry or role

Top 5 transferable skills

So what skills should you highlight when you’re considering moving to a new position?

At the beginning of this year, LinkedIn analysed hundreds of thousands of job postings in order to determine what skills companies are looking for. It found that the top five transferable soft skills being sought in 2019 are:

  1. Time management
  2. Adaptability
  3. Collaboration
  4. Persuasion
  5. Creativity
Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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