Transferable Skills: What They Are and How to Use Them

The ability to adapt and pivot across different roles and industries is more valuable than ever. Whether you’re seeking a new job, looking to advance in your current career, or considering a complete career change, one crucial element remains constant: the importance of transferable skills.

Transferable skills are the abilities and competencies you carry from one job to another, regardless of the industry or position. These skills are the versatile tools in your professional toolkit, enabling you to succeed in various contexts. But what exactly are they, and how can you identify and leverage them to enhance your career prospects?

Understanding transferable skills

Transferable skills are abilities and competencies that you can apply across various jobs and industries. Unlike job-specific skills, which are often tied to a particular role or field, transferable skills are versatile and can be used in different contexts. Employers value these attributes because they demonstrate your ability to adapt and succeed in a range of environments.

Though transferable skills are important to highlight anytime you apply to a job, they are particularly valuable when you’re making a career transition. Whether you’re switching industries, changing roles, or seeking advancement, these skills can help you navigate new challenges and seize opportunities. 

Types of transferable skills

Transferable skills can be broadly categorized into two types: soft skills and hard skills.

Soft skills

Soft skills are attributes that help you navigate the workplace and interact effectively with others. These skills are the most common transferable skills. They are crucial in almost every job because they influence how well you communicate, collaborate, and manage relationships. 

Key soft skills include:

  • Communication: The ability to convey information clearly and effectively.
  • Teamwork: The capacity to work well with others towards a common goal.
  • Problem-solving: The skill of identifying issues and finding effective solutions.
  • Adaptability: The ability to adjust to new conditions and challenges.
  • Time management: Efficiently managing one’s time to maximize productivity.

Hard skills

Hard skills are specific, teachable abilities that can be measured and quantified. You acquire these skills through education, training, and hands-on experience. While many hard skills are not transferable, some have applications across various fields. 

Key transferable hard skills include:

  • Broad technical skills: Proficiency in common technologies or software (e.g., Microsoft Office, GSuite).
  • Project management: The ability to plan, execute, and oversee projects from start to finish.
  • Data analysis: The capability to interpret and use data to inform decisions.
  • Foreign languages: Knowledge of additional languages is beneficial in many global industries.

Understanding the distinction between soft and hard skills is crucial because it helps you recognize which abilities you can bring to a new role and how they might be applied. 

For example, excellent communication skills (a soft skill) are just as valuable in a sales position as they are in a project management role. Similarly, proficiency in data analysis (a hard skill) can be leveraged in fields ranging from marketing to finance.

How to Identify Transferable Skills

Identifying your transferable skills

Transferable skills aren’t always obvious. Sometimes, you must think outside the box to figure out how your experiences apply to other roles and industries. 

Self-assessment techniques

Recognizing your transferable skills begins with a thorough self-assessment. This process involves reflecting on your past experiences, both professional and personal, to identify the skills you’ve acquired and honed over time. 

Here are some effective techniques to help you:

  • Reflect on past experiences: Think about your previous jobs, volunteer work, educational experiences, and hobbies. Consider the tasks you performed, the challenges you faced, and the achievements you accomplished. What skills did you use to navigate these situations?
  • Identify key skills from previous roles: Review your past job descriptions and performance reviews. Highlight the skills that were crucial to your success in those roles. For example, if you consistently led team projects, you likely have strong leadership and project management skills.
  • Seek feedback: Ask colleagues, mentors, and supervisors for feedback on your strengths and areas of improvement. They can provide valuable insights into your skill set and help you recognize abilities you might have overlooked.

Tools and resources

Several tools and resources can assist you in identifying and evaluating your transferable skills. Here are some recommended options:

  • Skill inventories: Online skill inventories and checklists can help you systematically evaluate your abilities. Websites like O*NET Online offer detailed descriptions of various skills and can guide you in assessing your own.
  • Online assessments and quizzes: Numerous websites offer quizzes to help you identify your strengths. For example, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and 16Personalities assessments provide insights into your personality and natural talents.
  • Career counseling services: Professional career counselors can offer personalized advice and tools to help you identify and develop your professional skills. Many universities and career centers provide these services for free or at a low cost.

By using these techniques and resources, you can create a list of your transferable skills. This list will be handy when you’re tailoring your resume, writing cover letters, and preparing for interviews. Understanding your skillset not only boosts your confidence but also enables you to present yourself more effectively to potential employers.

Highlighting transferable skills in your job application

Once you identify your transferable skills, you can begin to think about how you will showcase these to potential employers.


Your resume is often the first impression you make on potential employers, so it’s essential to highlight your transferable skills effectively. Here are some tips to help you showcase these skills on your resume:

  • Tailor your resume for each job application: Customize your resume for each position by emphasizing the skills that are most relevant to the job description. Carefully read the job posting to understand the key skills the employer is seeking, and highlight those skills in your resume.
  • Use a skills-based format: If you have a diverse work history or are transitioning to a new field, consider using a skills-based or functional resume format. This format allows you to group your experiences by skill categories rather than chronological order, making it easier to showcase your transferable skills.
  • Incorporate keywords: Many employers use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to screen resumes. To get noticed by ATS, include keywords from the job description that relate to your transferable skills.
  • Provide specific examples: Use bullet points to describe how you applied your transferable skills in previous roles. Be specific about your accomplishments and the impact you had. For example, instead of saying “good communication skills,” you could write, “led weekly team meetings and presented project updates, resulting in a 20% increase in team productivity.”

Cover letter

Your cover letter is an opportunity to elaborate on your abilities and explain how they make you a strong candidate for the job. 

Here’s how to do it effectively:

  • Introduce your key transferable skills early: In the opening paragraph, mention the transferable skills that make you a great fit for the position. This sets the tone for the rest of your letter and immediately shows the employer that you have the qualities they’re looking for.
  • Provide context and examples: In the body of your cover letter, provide specific examples of how you’ve used your transferable skills in past roles. Explain the situation, the actions you took, and the results you achieved. This helps the employer understand how your skills can benefit their organization.
  • Link skills to job requirements: Clearly connect your transferable skills to the requirements of the job you’re applying for. Show the employer how your experiences align with their needs and how you can contribute.

Interview preparation

Discussing your transferable skills during an interview is crucial. Here are some strategies to help you effectively communicate your skills:

  • Prepare STAR responses: Use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method to structure your responses. This approach helps you provide clear and concise examples of how you’ve applied your transferable skills in real-life situations. For instance, if asked about your problem-solving skills, you could describe a specific challenge you faced, the steps you took to address it, and the positive outcome.
  • Practice common questions: Be prepared to answer common interview questions that relate to transferable skills. Questions like “Can you give an example of a time when you worked as part of a team?” or “Describe a situation where you had to adapt to a new environment” are opportunities to showcase your skills.
  • Ask thoughtful questions: At the end of the interview, ask questions demonstrating your interest in the role and your understanding of the required skills. 

By effectively highlighting your transferable skills in your resume, cover letter, and interview, you can present yourself as a well-rounded and adaptable candidate, ready to take on new challenges and contribute to the success of any organization.

Embrace your transferable skills

Transferable skills are invaluable assets that can propel your career forward, regardless of the industry or role you pursue. By identifying, developing, and effectively showcasing these skills, you can enhance your employability and adaptability in an ever-changing job market. Embrace the versatility of your abilities to unlock new opportunities and achieve lasting career success.