How to emphasise your transferable skills


If shifts at your workplace have you looking for a new role elsewhere, it’s natural to feel a little worried that your skills are very specific to one industry. But often, employers are just as interested in your soft skills – and how well you’re able to fit into certain environments – as in your hard skills.

Even if you’re not currently looking for a new job, it’s worth examining your transferable skills, should you need them in the future. There’s substantial overlap in the skills needed to thrive in each industry, so you might be better matched for a job than it first appears. This article takes a look at some of the transferable skills that matter to employers, and how you might not even realise you tick that box.

Hard skills versus soft skills

Before considering which of your skills are most transferable, it’s worth clarifying the difference between hard and soft skills.

Hard skills are quantifiable and it’s easy to demonstrate your capabilities. Hard skills are usually something you can learn, whether that’s through university, online courses, or books. Employers might specify hard skills they’re looking for, and you’ll immediately know whether or not you have those skills.

Examples of hard skills include:

  • A degree in a specific subject like Mechanical Engineering, HR Management or International Business
  • A certificate in Google Analytics or SEO
  • Foreign language proficiency, such as B2 Level French
  • The ability to use computer software and programmes like Adobe Photoshop, or a customer relationship platform (CRM) like Zendesk
  • Having a valid driving licence

Soft skills, on the other hand, are much harder to pin down. Focused on how you interact and communicate with those around you, soft skills are often called interpersonal skills or ‘people skills’. You pick these skills up from your environment, from your childhood and school years, to recent jobs you’ve had.

Examples of soft skills include:

  • Communication
  • Taking initiative
  • Being a team player
  • Adaptability
  • Being driven
  • A strong work ethic
  • Being self motivated

These attributes are harder to prove to a potential employer, so you’ll need to get creative to communicate your soft skills.

Thinking outside the box

Transferable skills can be either hard or soft skills, and they have one core thing in common: they’re useful for multiple industries and across multiple roles. If you’re applying for jobs and need to demonstrate your transferable skills, one way to do this is through providing examples of situations in which your soft skills came into play.

Perhaps you worked in the hospitality industry as a waiter for many years. In order to do your job to a high standard, you would have needed to be a team player with strong social skills, to know how to communicate your restaurant’s brand to your customers, and the ability to resolve conflict. If you are looking for a new job and would like to move out of the hospitality industry, these skills would be very attractive to an employer hiring for customer service roles.

To demonstrate your transferable skills, consider sharing an example of a time you used your soft skills to solve a problem. Maybe the kitchen was overworked, and a first-time customer received their dish cold. If you sorted out the situation that benefited everybody involved, this demonstrates to a potential employer that you’re able to think on your feet, work well under pressure, and take initiative in your job.

If you were the floor manager of a clothing store, it’s likely that you dealt with inventory and stock checks, which requires strong attention to detail and numerical skills. These skills would serve you well in a data-related function such as operations or office manager, where being detail-oriented is central to the role.

These examples demonstrate that many of the skills needed in today’s workplace are easily transferable across industries. If you’re looking for a new role at the moment, take a holistic view of your previous roles, and determine which functions your skills would be suited to.

Discovering your transferable skills

On a job application, it’s important to be succinct and highlight the key information you want busy recruiters to see. If you’re unclear as to your transferable skills, here are some ways to work out what you should be drawing attention to.

Which parts of your old job were you good at?

Were there specific tasks that you really enjoyed? If you still have access to old performance reports from your managers, check to see which of your skills they highlighted. Usually, the aspects of the job you most enjoy are also the ones that you’re best at.

How can you add a digital twist to your skills?

The current global situation has demonstrated the need for companies to go digital at a moment’s notice. Take a look at your skills, and see which ones work well digitally. Maybe you’re an expert presenter. If you also feel particularly comfortable presenting via Zoom or other online software, that might be something to highlight in your applications.

Do you speak foreign languages?

Language speakers remain as sought-after as ever. In The Netherlands, French, German and Nordic languages are particularly desirable for employers. If you speak a foreign language to a professional standard, make sure that information is clearly visible on your resume – it’s a must-have across multiple industries.

If you had the misfortune to be laid off from your previous job, check out the vacancies we currently have and feel free to apply.

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