Transferable skills are the skills you’ve gained from your courses, jobs, volunteer experiences, leadership roles, sports, hobbies, or other life experiences that you can use in your next job or career or in life generally. They are skills that make a difference in a variety of settings. Knowing how to write code in a certain programming language is a specific, job-related skill. Knowing how to work effectively with people on a team project is a transferable skill useful in many settings.
Why are transferable skills important? Employers want to know that you are the right person for the job—not just because you have the college degree and relevant experience, but also because you can function well in the workplace. All your skills need to be clearly evident from your cover letter and resume. For a college student or recent grad, looking to your college years for evidence of transferable skills really helps you convince an employer to hire you.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Job Outlook Survey 2013, the Top Ten Transferable Skills employers look for are listed below.
Just like a cassette tape, let’s start with Side A and press PLAY…
Track 1: Communication
Example: For an assignment in your EDUC course, you had to develop a sample lecture on how you would explain verbs and nouns to elementary students. You effectively created a presentation and presented it to your classmates and professor.
Track 2: Teamwork or ability to work in a team structure
Example: During your service-learning experience freshman year, you and four other team members had to create and present an activity on healthy living for 8th graders at the local elementary school. You ensured every team member had the opportunity to voice their thoughts and had a role in the activity. The 8th graders enjoyed the activity and gave the team positive feedback.
Track 3: Decision-making and problem solving
Example: While you were a resident assistant, you had to plan an event for your hall. Many of your residents gave you input on what types of food and decorations they wanted. However, you were only given $50 to put on the event. You successfully used the $50 to decide on what food and decorations to have based on their various ideas and still stayed within your budget.
Track 4: Organization
Example: As President of the Student Events Board, you made sure each vice president and programmer had a list of tasks to complete along with deadlines. You successfully put together a calendar of events for all UMBC students every semester.
Track 5: Ability to obtain and process information
Examples: As a Peer Advisor in the Office for Academic & Pre-Professional Advising, you were frequently gathering information from students and parents and referring them to the correct advisor or department to get their issue resolved. As a student, you are probably utilizing this skill every day. Do you read the textbook before class and after the lecture to make sure everything makes sense?
Each side can only hold about 5 tracks so let’s switch over to Side B…but wait, one particular experience can give you multiple transferable skills. If we rewind to the teamwork example, this scenario can shows leadership skills. Not only did you successfully work in a team environment but you made sure all team members had a role in the activity—leadership at its finest!
Track 6: Analytical skills, including quantitative analysis
Example: In your CMSC programming class, you successfully spot errors in the codes for your assignments and exams. Before turning in assignments, you review them carefully and do several test runs to make sure the code is working correctly.
Track 7: Technical knowledge
Example: As an intern at the bank headquarters, you were able to successfully utilize specific knowledge that you acquired in your accounting and economics classes to complete tasks.
Track 8: Software proficiency
Example: As a desk assistant in Residence Life you have become a Microsoft Office pro by creating PowerPoint presentations and flyers in Publisher for events and bulletin boards. Also, you enjoy photography as a hobby and have mastered editing pictures through Adobe Photoshop.
Track 9: Written skills
Example: As a writer for the Retriever Weekly you wrote articles and editorials on campus news and various topics facing UMBC students.
Track 10: Ability to sell or influence others
Example: As a SGA senator at UMBC you negotiated with and persuaded University administrators to improve and implement policies and programs to help improve the student experience and campus community.
Resources and Links
For more information on what employers want from new graduates, check out NACE’s site here:
For more information on ways to gain transferable skills throughout the semester, check out these articles from USA Today:
EXTRA CREDIT DISCUSSION QUESTION
Have you gained any of the skills listed? If so, through what experiences?