Depending which statistics you consult, North Americans will switch careers on average anywhere from seven to fifteen times in their lives. These changes can be the result of a personal desire for change, downsizing in a particular field, growth in another or even a simple increase in responsibilities in a current job that amount to a career change.
Whatever the number and whatever the reason, it’s clear that people need skills that will serve them well in more than one career and, in an increasingly globalized world, in more than one country.
So, what are transferable skills, which ones are most valuable and how can you get them?
Transferable skills are skills that are not specific to one job or career but rather are useful in a number of careers and/or situations.
Some examples of transferable skills are:
These are useful skills in almost any job and there is a good chance you may have already practised them in jobs you’ve already held or in volunteer positions or school. However, as much as these are useful skills, they’re a little vague and hard to prove. When identifying your transferable skills, you want to think of specific examples that illustrate why you think you have them and how you use them. Depending on the situation, these can become bullet points in a resume, a sentence in a cover letter or an answer to an interview question.
For example, imagine you list effective communicator as one of your skills on your resume. On the one hand, almost ever potential employer appreciates employees who are good communicators. On the other hand, almost every potential employee will probably claim to be one. Get specific. Did you write company memos? Did you communicate company policy to new team members? How do you know you were successful? What were the results?
Identify your skills
There are many transferable skills you use every day that you are probably not even aware of. However, if you use them every day, a lot of other people probably do too so it’s important to pick those you really excel at, those that are quantifiable and those that you enjoy. If you have a hard time identifying your own skills, ask a co-worker, a classmate or a friend. Maybe you are always the person who plans things in your social circle. Now that you’ve pinpointed your planning skills, look for quantifiable proof, preferably work related. Maybe you planned and organized the staff Christmas party. Now you can say something like planned and organized the company’s most well-attended staff Christmas party. Even if you are transitioning to a totally different field, your planning and organization skills will help you stand out.
Of course, when seeking new jobs or careers, you should identify which of your transferable skills are the most pertinent to the new position. The fact that you have excellent coordination probably won’t impress those hiring for most desk jobs. However, if you’re applying for a position as a labourer, a PE teacher or even a veterinarian, this might come in handy. Be selective with which skills you focus on. It’s better to highlight your strongest transferable skills that are the most pertinent to the position and to be specific about why you have them rather than to list as many as you possibly can and seeing what sticks.
There is no one answer to the question which transferable skills are the most useful or most sought after. My advice is to decide which of your transferable skills are the strongest and which ones you most enjoy doing. Then seek positions that ask for these skills. Not only will you ensure you have the necessary skills but you have a much higher chance of being happy in your job. I also encourage you to add active and/or fast learner to your transferable skills. This demonstrates that even if you don’t already have certain skills, you’re willing and able to obtain them. You can practice this skill and demonstrate you actually have it by taking classes. This will even give you a chance to brush up on some of your other skills while you’re at it.
 A quick internet search will give you a list of more transferable. For a comprehensive list, I would also highly recommend the book The Job Hunter’s Survival Guide by Richard N. Bowles.