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Transferable Skills and Skill based CVs

If you want to change careers or extend your options it is worth considering what your transferable skills are.

Transferable skills are the skills you have acquired through various jobs, volunteer work, hobbies, sports or other life experiences that can be used in your next job or new career. In addition to being useful to career changers, transferable skills are also important to those who are facing a layoff, new graduates who are looking for their first job, and to those re-entering the workforce after an extended absence.

Job titles tell little about what your actual job entailed. It is important to dissect each job you’ve held in order to discover what skills you actually used to do that job. Transferable skills can be role-related, technical or general skills that can be put to use in a variety of jobs across a number of industries.

Generic skills high on employers' wish lists include IT, numeracy and languages. Other general skills include:

  • Communication
  • Problem Solving
  • Research and planning – working to deadlines
  • Interaction, liaison and negotiating skills
  • Organisation, management and leadership
  • Motivating people
  • Making decisions

Good customer facing skills can apply across the retail industry. Managerial skills are applicable across sectors. The key is leadership, and businesses across the board are on the hunt for managers with proven leadership qualities. In your job application and interviews, employers will be really impressed if you can provide examples of when you used these skills in different jobs. This shows you’re adaptable and can bring useful skills to a job straight away.

Work through the jobs and tasks you have done and for each task write down what skills you used, the level e.g. highly skilled, moderately skilled and needs improvement. Mark those skills you enjoy doing. Promote those that you enjoy and are highly skilled. Retain lists of those you enjoy and are moderately good at and things you enjoy doing but need more training or experience in. Here are some suggestions, not exhaustive but could form the start of a considered list:-

  • Plan and arrange events and activities
  • Delegate responsibility
  • Motivate others
  • Attend to visual detail
  • Assess and evaluate my own work
  • Assess and evaluate others' work
  • Deal with obstacles and crises
  • Multi-task
  • Present written material
  • Present material orally
  • Manage time
  • Repair equipment or machinery
  • Keep records
  • Handle general accounts including invoices, taxation and VAT
  • Good with statistics, economics and financial markets
  • Handle complaints
  • Coordinate fundraising activities
  • Coach
  • Research
  • Build or construct
  • Design buildings, furniture, etc.
  • Manage finances
  • Speak a foreign language (specify language)
  • Use sign language
  • Utilize computer software (specify programs)
  • Train or teach others
  • Identify and manage ethical issues

In looking through job advertisements you have to assess what skills might be needed in the job.  Recruitment agencies have a good overview of sectors and will be able to let you know if you have the right transferable skills to move over and additional training you might need.

See what transferable skills you have that might apply to the job vacancy. Next you have to convince a potential employer.  One way of achieving this is to write an objective that tells which skills are applicable to the position you are seeking. The other way is to write a skills based resume – either functional or combination resume. A functions resume describes each of your skills. A combination resume combines a functional resume with a chronological resume, listing your work experience in addition to your skills.  A functional CV helps if you are looking in a new area for a career, if you have gaps in your employment history, if you have had a lot of jobs and want to describe the experience you got as a whole and if you want to highlight skills you have gained in previous jobs but that you don’t use in your current or most recent job.

Agencies in particular often do not like skills based functional resume. They want key word matches and a clear indication of having done similar work of the same kind in the recent past – it makes their work easier.  Employers may not like them thinking that it is an attempt to hide something (such as gaps in work history) and being an unusual format they may not know how to best read it.  As fewer jobs are advised directly you are stuck with applying through an agency or numerous cold calling firms on the off chance of there being a vacancy – although many companies advise their vacancies online.

Your covering letter needs to sound positive about previous work experience and keen for new challenges.


With further advise and contact to advisers
Although giving results and suggested careers in US$ and not normalised it is a good indicator of jobs that might be of interest to you with each type of job broken down by work task and working conditions.

Last updated 10th September 2014