How to Assess Transferable Skills and Use Them For a Career Change

By Angelica Bottaro

career changer assessing transferable skills at the office

Breaking into a new industry while changing careers can be challenging. That is especially true if you aren’t sure what skills you have that can translate across various professions.

The good news is that the job you have and the job you desire aren’t that far from one another if you look at the skills you have acquired that can work in your favor in whatever industry you want to shift into.

What are transferable skills?

Making a career transition may seem like something that requires extensive new training or education. In some cases, that may be the case. You can’t use your skills as a teacher to do brain surgery. That said, many job positions require a lot of the same know-how. Those skills you’ve learned throughout your professional career are the ones you can take with you regardless of where you end up.

Before you take any leaps into learning new ways of doing things for your prospective new career, look at the hard and soft skills you’ve mastered in the past that can be repackaged in a way that makes you a standout candidate. For example, good customer service skills can apply to various careers because it revolves around good communication and maintaining relationships with people in a professional space.

How to Identify Your Transferable Skills

Identifying your transferable skills isn’t always easy. Why? Because you see them from a specific point of view. Looking outside the box for ways to utilize your existing skills for a brand new career position is the best way to identify what you can already offer an employer based on the jobs you’ve succeeded at in the past.

Skills can be broken up into six categories when ironing out precisely what you can do, where you may fall short, and what skills you can transfer as you change your career trajectory. Those categories are:


Basic skills are required for any job, regardless of the position. Things such as working well alone and with a team or communicating effectively with others count as basic skills.


Most careers require you to have some face time (or virtual face time) with others. This could be colleagues, current and potential clients, vendors, etc. If you possess skills that make building and maintaining professional relationships easy, you are well-equipped to handle many careers already.


If you’re looking to enter a management position within a new sector, it’s important to note what leadership skills you possess. Even as a non-manager, you may be able to utilize some of your hard and soft skills to showcase your ability to oversee others in the workplace.

For example, if you worked in a department store and helped to oversee shift schedules, you can use that to prove you have the professional chops to manage others effectively.


Being proficient in clerical duties is almost a must at any given job. You may not have been titled clerk, but if you’ve handled any internal communications in your previous career, even if that’s inputting reports of your own and sending snapshot emails of where specific projects are, you can use that to your advantage.

Research and Planning

Research and planning may sound like specific terms, but many job duties can fall under this category. Handling multiple deadlines, researching marketing campaigns that work, or helping plan the company Christmas party can all be valuable skills in research and planning.

Computer and Technical

Technical skills, such as the ability to use computer programs, are often underutilized because people assume that everyone is tech-savvy. That’s not always the case. If you have a wealth of tech knowledge, even if it’s just converting a Microsoft document into a PDF, make that known.

What are some examples of transferable skills?

Breaking down transferrable skills is a great place to start, but it doesn’t give you the entire picture. You want to know precisely what skills can be taken with you on your next professional adventure. Some examples of transferable skills include:

· Problem-solving
· Analytical reasoning
· Critical thinking
· Leadership
· Adaptability
· Teamwork
· Communication
· Writing
· Active listening
· Creativity
· Attention to detail
· Project management
· Relationship-building
· Computer skills
· Time management
· Public speaking
· Presentation skills

Most professions require employees to have the skills mentioned above. Why? Because they are vital to being able to perform in most work environments. This list, although helpful, is not exhaustive. You could have hidden professional talents you may never consider as being transferable but are.

For example, if you have a solid ability to empathize with others and strong emotional intelligence, you could use that to your advantage. It doesn’t appear in many job ads, but it’s a vital skill when working with other people.

Using Your Transferable Skills to Land Your Dream Job

When you’ve identified every skill you have in your arsenal, you’ll want to reframe them to match the job you’re applying for. You can do this by seeking out several job ads in your newly chosen career and establishing the skills needed to fulfil that role. Much of your current professional knowledge can be reworked in a way that stands out to potential employers.

Once you have identified skills that could be applied to the new position, make a list and break it down into the above mentioned categories. When writing a new resume to match the potential job, focus heavily on how your current positions and the knowledge you’ve gained from them can work toward your new career.

Filling in the Gaps with New Training

If the new career you’re switching to requires some skills you don’t possess, you can iron out exactly what you need to do to improve your resume. For example, if you have most of the required skills but don’t know how to use a specific program, you could watch video tutorials during your own time and add them to your resume. When meeting with the employer, state that you have never used the program professionally but know how to do x, y, and z because of the training you completed on your own time.

Being able to convey that you are a quick study and willing to go above and beyond to be perfect for the job is a great way to let potential employers know that you’re serious about the position and ready to show them that you’re the candidate they’re looking for.

Changing careers can be scary, but when you realize how much knowledge you already possess, the transition can be that much less daunting.
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