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What are transferable skills?

Written by: Charlotte Rogers
Published on: 31 Jan 2020

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If you’re a job seeker, you have probably been told how important transferable skills are to have. However, one thing they don’t tell you is what they are and how to present them on your CV. Transferable skills are core skills that can be applied to both different jobs and industries. Transferable skills or ‘soft skills’ are things like having good leadership abilities and being a good listener. They are skills that seem simple to learn but are highly valuable in work. These skills are generally learnt through everyday life and things like past work experience or voluntary work. They are not typically skills that employers will teach you, but they are incredibly valuable to them.

Why are they so important?

Your transferable skills are very valuable to employers, these skills can share little things about your personality and can sometimes help them determine whether you would make a good member of the team. Having soft skills shows that you have something extra to give, rather than just your engineering abilities. Being an engineer is more than just your education or experience, employers want to see if you are going to fit in and have good communication. They want to see that you will be a good employee and team member, as well as a good engineer. Transferable skills can be very useful on your CV when you are looking for an entry-role or if you are changing careers. It highlights the skills you do have, rather than the ones you may not, and it really shows what you can give the employer.

What transferable skills are there?

Although there is no single set of transferable skills, we have listed some important skills that you may have and why they will be of use to you. It is important that you evaluate yourself and your achievements and present these skills well on your CV.

Leadership – This is a very versatile skill and being a good leader can bring something positive to any job. Leadership can be shown through motivating others in a team or helping someone to achieve a shared goal. Leadership is all about focusing on other people in the team and not just yourself, many employers may think this is a core skill and would love to see it in their candidates. You can talk about leadership in your skills section or even when talking about a hobby. Hobbies such as being a captain of a sports team or be a volunteer teacher can show leadership. There are many instances in which you can show leadership as well as the workplace.

Communication – Communication plays a big part in any job role. This is an important skill regardless of the role you are in, even if you spend most of your time working alone, talking to colleagues and letting them know what you are doing is very important. Communication is a skill that helps the workplace run smoothly, it lets your employer know what is happening. Employers always want to know that their employee is going to inform them, whether it be good or bad news. Good communication helps boost efficiency, productivity and can help trust in the workplace. This is an extremely important skill to have, especially if you are working in a team and on projects.

Time management – Being able to get your job done in the time and budget available is an important part of any job. Employers want to know that you can handle certain workloads and get them done in a given amount of time, as well as getting it done to a good level. It is not just about getting your work done and hitting deadlines, time management means you take the necessary steps to get there and organisation plays a big part in this. Time management is creating to-do lists, organising your calendar effectively and even asking for help when you need it. It’s all about utilising the time you have.

Prioritisation – This skill is very similar to having good time management. The two almost work in harmony, however prioritisation is slightly different. Prioritising is a good skill to have when you have a big work load. It may not be a skill you have to use daily, but when it is needed, it can be very valuable to a company. Sometimes you can have a lot of work to do and not know where to start. Employees need to know what the most important tasks are. This means you can get these done first and out of the way. These are the tasks that are going to take the most time and are of high importance. Being able to determine what tasks are of high importance is very valuable. If you are not able to get everything done in one working day, at least you can say that you are leaving your workplace with no urgent work. If it helps you can work on priority lists, write tasks down from most important to least important and work your way through.

Problem solving – This skill is important for many roles, but engineering roles in particular. Being able to step back, assess your work and come up with creative ways to make changes or solve problems is very important in the world of engineering. In some ways, this is a very creative skill. You should be able to think outside the box and come up with new ways of doing things. Having good problem-solving skills also means having the ability to criticise your work and find the problem in the first place (If it’s not obvious already). This is very valuable to employers and having it displayed proudly and in the relevant place on your CV can really help your application.

How do I show these skills on my CV?

Skills on your CV should be present throughout, even if you have a designated section for ‘skills’, you want to make sure you are making them apparent throughout. Your personal statement is a great place for you to talk about skills like problem-solving or leadership, especially if the job description mentions them.

Another place for you to include transferable skills is in your work experience section. In this section, you should be writing about your achievements in the workplace, so this makes a great place to talk about these skills. You want to mention the skill and then mention how you used it to achieve or overcome something. Make sure you are giving examples; it gives your CV more substance and makes it interesting to read.

Then there is the skills section. If you haven’t found the right place yet and you still have skills you want to share, then you can use this space to do so. Make sure you are using a good mixture of transferable skills and technical skills in this space to show the employer that you are versatile.

Transferable skills are very important to employers. Even if you have great experience and knowledge on your field of practice, they want to know whether you are going to fit in with the team. These skills show that you have a little bit extra to give. Use the opportunity to include these in your CV and show them what you are capable of. Don’t shy away from mentioning these in interviews either, you’ll be surprised on the impact ‘good problem-solving skills’ can have on your interview.