Transferable Skills

In today's economy, many people are engaged in career transition. Some are doing so because they are out of work due to downsizing. Others are still working, but are feeling anxious about the steady stream of bleak economic news. Whatever the reason, spending some time thinking about one's career --including taking stock of your accomplishments, your skills, and your options-- is not a bad use of time right now.

Recently, someone I am assisting with career transition guidance, asked about transferable skills: what are they? and how do you identify them?

Transferable skills are capabilities, like goal setting, effective communication, being organized, time management, or problem solving, that we can utilize in more than one situation or context. For example, I can write at home as well as at work. The same with problem solving. And effective presentation skills. And so on.

I can use these skills while working at a bank, at a hospital, at a newspaper, and at a factory.

The concept of transferable skills says that you have many capabilities that you can take with you to an entirely different field or industry.

How do you identify your transferable skills? Here's a 3-step guide.

1 - Skills Lists - A starting point was provided by the great career coach Richard Nelson Bolles in his classic book What Color Is Your Parachute? where he gives lists of skills that you can go through, circling all those that you have.

2 - When You're At Your Best - A further useful step is to review your accomplishments, especially those you are most proud of. Such accomplishments can come from any part of your life, and any time. By reflecting upon, and analyzing, these accomplishments, you'll be looking to identify the skills you used.

3 - Skills You Most Enjoy - Then, after going through the lists, and reviewing key accomplishments, ask yourself which of your skills you most enjoy using, and would most like to use in your next job?

What's great about transferable skills is that they help us break out of our own typecasting. Consider someone who has been in a particular field for twenty years. That's a long time. They may be feeling stuck, like they have no other options.

They may think that all they know, and all that they are capable of doing, is bound to that one field.

The reality is that we have many transferable skills that can be applied in many diverse situations. And once we have thought about the skills we are best at and most enjoy using, we can seek opportunities that will maximize the right fit.

One of the keys to happiness in life is doing work that you enjoy.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, May 26, 2009

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