Identifying your transferrable skills is a crucial step to defining and owning your career path. Simply put, transferrable skills are those that translate across any position regardless of sector or industry. Your capacity to effectively manage projects, lead and work on a team, and analyze data are all examples of key transferrable skills.
Take a step back from your daily work life for a minute. Think about a big project you worked on in the past year or two and ask yourself the following questions:
- What was the scope of the project?
- What unexpected challenges did you encounter along the way? How did you handle them?
- How did you manage deadlines within a larger timeframe? Did you meet your deadlines? If not, why? What did you learn?
- What did the experience teach you about juggling multiple priorities simultaneously?
- How did you divide the project into smaller pieces? Did you delegate those pieces? If so, were you successful?
- How did the project highlight your communication, teamwork, and leadership skills?
Jot down notes in response to each question. Then use your notes to formulate a narrative of the project from beginning to end. Imagine you are explaining the project to someone who knows absolutely nothing about your company or role. It will help you stick to the big picture and focus on the lessons you learned along the way.
And remember to stay positive. For example, if you missed deadlines, talk about how you learned to add a few extra days to each step to account for unexpected delays. If you unsuccessfully delegated pieces of the project, describe how you learned to give more specific instructions and to check in frequently with your team. Practice your narrative a few times and voila!, you have the perfect answer prepared for your upcoming performance review or job interview.
Once you've nailed your description of one project, start brainstorming examples that illustrate other important transferrable skills such as effective writing and communication; critical thinking; management (hiring, promoting, disciplining, and performance management in particular); overseeing social media or an editorial calendar; and utilizing software and more. Every organization needs results-driven and effective team members.
Spending some time thinking about your skills is a great first step to becoming more comfortable describing your career-related skills and accomplishments. If you feel as though you are lacking transferrable skills, get out and volunteer! Giving your time and energy to an organization is a great way to develop new skills while doing good for the world. Offering to help create an appeal letter is a great way to learn about development and marketing. Overseeing volunteers is excellent experience for learning to manage a team.
Hilary Hodge is the Executive Director of the Workforce Academy at City Colleges where she partners with hundreds of businesses across Chicago to train their employees in key soft skills. She helped launch and then served as Vice President of Operations at Multilingual Connections in Logan Square. Hilary has transitioned across several sectors and industries including sales, marketing, education, workforce training, publishing, operations. She is an active member of several nonprofit and community boards. Hilary is also the author of several Career Pathways texts.