How to identify and improve your transferable skills

Use this simple tool to identify which transferable skills help you stand out.
Sep 18
Title: How to identify your transferable skills

Lots of people regularly change jobs.

However I have changed jobs more often than most people upgrade their phone (at least 8 times in the last 8 years).

When you choose part-time contract work like I do, applying for jobs comes with the territory.

I approach job applications as an opportunity to highlight my transferable skills - to express the contribution I can make to a position and the value I bring to an employer.

But if you don't change jobs as regularly as I do, then identifying your transferable skills can be daunting.

A quick internet search will bring up hundreds of transferable skills.

So how do you decide which ones are important? What should you worry about?

Well, as is often the case, there's no right or wrong answer. Sorry.

However based on my experience, I think there are some quite clear transferable skills1 that employers value whether you're looking for another library-related role, or a role in a completely different profession.

What are your transferable skills?

The transferable skills that I believe all employers value highly are:

  • Adaptability
  • Critical thinking 
  • Curiosity 
  • Empathy 
  • Patience and
  • Solving problems.

You possess all of these skills and use them to varying degrees for different situations.

They're transferable.

But they're not equal.

You will be better at some than at others.

Below I've included a simple tool that will identify which transferable skills will help you to stand out.

I invite you to try it and let me know how it went.

A spider chart depicting each of the six transferable skills

For each axis on the chart, read the description below and mark a score between 0 and 10, where 0 is a low score and 10 is a high score.

Adaptabability

Are you energised by change?

Do you keep calm in the face of difficulties and bounce back from setbacks with a positive attitude? Can you think quickly and respond thoughtfully to unpredictable situations? If that's you - you're a 10!

Or does change and uncertainty make you feel anxious? If that's you - you're probably a 1 or a 2.

Or you may find you're somewhere in between. Give yourself a score.

Critical thinking

Are you thoughtful and methodical?

Do you like to analyse each situation and assess its relative consequence before taking action? Do you love peeling back layers of information? If that's you then you're probably a 10.

Or if you like to trust your instincts instead, then you're probably a 1 or a 2.

Give yourself a mark.

Curiosity

Do you love learning new things?

Are you are a good listener who looks for different perspectives to broaden your understanding? Do you like to play and experiment with different ideas and ways of doing things? If that's you - you're probably a 10.

If on the other hand you find joy in routine, then you're probably a 1 or a 2.

Give yourself a mark.

Empathy

Are you a people person?

Are you more interested in respecting the values and feelings of others than rules and regulations? Do you like spending time getting to know people? If this is you, give yourself a 10.

If however you prefer to email a question to the person in the next cubicle, rather than ask them in person then you're probably a 1 or a 2.

Or you may find yourself somewhere in between. Give yourself a mark.

Patience

Are consistency and reliability important to you?

Do you persevere rather than give up in frustration?  Are you orderly, organised and good at following a plan? If so, you're probably a 10.

Or if you're easily distracted and like a bit of drama, then you would probably mark yourself a 1 or a 2.

Give yourself a score.

Problem solving

Do you enjoy helping others overcome obstacles?

Do you like the challenge of understanding a problem and getting stuck into the details? Are you optimistic about finding solutions? If so, you're probably a 10 when it comes to problem solving.

If you're a big picture kind of person, then you're probably a 1 or a 2.

Give yourself a mark.

What makes you stand out?

Now that you've scored each transferable skill, join the dots with nice straight lines. It's likely that you'll have a beautifully wonky shape that clearly shows your transferable skills.

We are naturally inclined to focus on the negatives, the areas where you could improve but I don't think you'll enjoy those things. Life's too short to focus on the things you don't enjoy. 

Instead I recommend identifying the transferable skills where you scored highest. These are the skills that you're confident using, and are therefore likely to be skills you will want to use more often. 

The transferable skills that you scored highest are your strengths.

It's what you are good at and what makes you stand out from others.

Plus they are also likely to be the skills you'll want to use in another role. 

Your transferable skills are your strengths. They are what you're good at and help you stand out from others. #TheLibraryBoss

Click to Tweet

Play to your strengths

Now that you know what your transferable skills are, find ways to use them more often in your work.

Look for the little ways in which you can contribute without making a big deal out of it. Here are some suggestions:

  • When you come across an article that would benefit others, share it and explain why you thought it was worth sharing.
  • When you see an opportunity to improve, do some research to see if it has merit.
  • Offer to get a colleague a drink or bite to eat when you seem them snowed under with work.
  • Gather evidence to support a different way of working.
  • Offer to update the procedures when a new version of software is released.
  • When a colleague wishes they could do something faster or better, offer to spend some time figuring out how it could be done.

If you do these little things, several things will happen. Others will notice and they'll lead to more opportunities to contribute. You'll feel great because you're playing to your strengths. You'll add value to existing practices. And you can add these experiences to your resume.

What are your transferable skills? What skills did you score highest on?

Spark Notes

  • Last week I asked Twitter what I should write about. Katrina suggested I write about how to identify your transferable skills. This is the result. Thanks Katrina. 🙂
  • 1 These are the same 6 qualities that are used to identify your digital super-power. Your digital super-power is the approach that helps you to flourish in a digital world. It is the approach that comes most naturally to you, and boosts your confidence when you use it. Take the quiz to discover your digital super-power.
  • The idea of using a spider chart came from Five star service, one star budget by Michael Heppell.
  • Image by Drew Coffman on Unsplash.
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