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Searching for a job right now can feel a bit like wading through quicksand. Many businesses are on a hiring freeze, others are actively making redundancies or furloughing staff while they wait for the situation to improve. And with companies in sectors such as travel, hospitality and entertainment having to completely shut down, thousands of more jobseekers have been thrown into the jobs market, all seeking positions. In times of crisis, when your job no longer exists (perhaps you’re a theatre actor, a bartender, or work in a non-essential retail shop) or when you find yourself up against hundreds of other applicants, you must turn to your transferable skills.
You may be applying for a job that you have never done before or for which you don’t have one or more of the technical skills asked for. Perhaps you need to think outside the box when it comes to even searching for a job, looking at skills and qualities you have that can be brought to a different role. Adaptability is key. These skills might come from previous jobs or from your personal life; the important thing to remember is that they are more than just a technical skill and as such can be taken to any job role. Transferable skills are many and varied but we pinpoint a few of the most in-demand ones.
Being able to work within and as part of a team is essential for many jobs, whether you’re working remotely, in an office or on-site. You need to be able to recognise how you can contribute and how you can support team members. Ultimately, you need to be able to get along with a wide and varied group of people and prove that you will be a good fit. How do you demonstrate these skills? Think of times you have worked well in a team to collectively reach a shared goal – this could be in a past work role or whilst being a member of a sports or other social group.
Initiative and time management
These two transferable skills often go hand-in-hand. It is important to show that you are self-motivated, can be responsible for your own workload and can manage time effectively. This is even more relevant at a time when many jobs have been taken remotely and you may have to work from home, away from your manager and team. Think about how you might be able to show how you can prioritise work to meet deadlines. Can you react proactively to situations? Can you show initiative and act swiftly but intelligently without being asked to do something?
Communication is key, especially if you are not meeting face-to-face with colleagues. A good communicator isn’t just someone who can explain ideas effectively or persuade others (although they are important attributes) – they are also good listeners. Richard Branson cites listening as the top skill to possess for great leadership, “listen more than you talk” being his business leadership philosophy. It is a great interpersonal skill, generating trust and making people feel valued, and allows us to take the time to understand and learn. Effective verbal communication is of course also vital. Being able to clearly and coherently verbalise whatever you need to communicate to a wide range of audiences, as well as the ability to persuade/inspire/negotiate, is an incredibly in-demand skill.
The ability to research, analyse and evaluate information is a skill that may sometimes require technical knowledge but an aptitude for analysis and the extraction of results from a range of different data is certainly transferable. The collection of data and the ability to analyse and make sense of it is relevant in many industries, from finance to marketing. In its simplest form, this is problem-solving – something you have been doing since you started school. Demonstrate an example of an instance whereby you have taken on a challenge, examined all the possible factors affecting the outcome and decided on the best course of action using the resources at your disposal.
In our digital age, it is vital to have at least a basic understanding of simple software such as word processing and spreadsheet, as well as emails and messaging apps. Beyond this, unless you are applying for a purely technical role requiring specific skills, any IT technical skills are helpful but the ability to learn quickly and troubleshoot is a great transferable skill. Demonstrate that you can quickly learn how to use new tools and software and you will be at a huge advantage. At a time when so much is being taken online, showing an aptitude for tech is incredibly valuable.
We have listed just a few of the many transferable skills you might demonstrate during your job search. Others include creativity, multitasking, leadership, written communication, numeracy skills, and personal development. You should reference these skills in your application, demonstrating how you have used them to positive effect in past roles or other experience. The key thing to remember when using these skills to positively impact your job search is to think about how each might help you to do that job better. This will help not just when applying for a job but when searching for a position that matches your skillset. Transferable skills can be just as, or sometimes even more, important than technical skills. Remembering this might just change your mindset when job searching.