Careers have never been more dynamic. Opportunities arise as technology advances. People tend to have multiple positions throughout their career. And many people will completely change career path at some point in their working life. Transferrable skills help us navigate these changes – which make them essential to help us thrive.
In fact, UNICEF thinks transferrable skills are so important that they want to see them embedded into children’s education. They believe transferable skills help ensure inclusive education and lifelong learning.
So let’s explore them: What are transferable skills? What are the top 10 transferable skills? And how can you enhance yours to power a career change?
What are transferable skills?
All jobs involve mastering some technical skills. These are usually pretty unique to that role. Think of a graphic designer’s ability to navigate user interfaces. An accountant’s skill with financial software. Or an engineer’s understanding of physics.
Transferable skills, meanwhile, are those that apply to any job. They are a set of versatile abilities that can be applied across lots of different roles and industries. They encompass a range of qualities. They serve as the foundation for success, particularly when considering a career change.
Employers highly value transferable skills because they contribute to a well-rounded and effective workforce. These skills are essential for fostering a collaborative and innovative work environment, where employees can communicate clearly, solve problems creatively and navigate change with resilience.
And when transitioning to a new field as part of a career change, your technical knowledge might be limited, but your transferable skills remain relevant and valuable. They act as the bridge between your past experiences and your future aspirations, making the transition smoother.
Top 10 transferable skills
Communication is one of the cornerstones of professional success. It allows people to share thoughts, ideas, opinions and information. To build relationships and resolve conflict. Collaborate and influence. In the professional world, communication helps in conveying ideas to colleagues, supervisors and clients. It also aids in presentations, negotiations and teamwork.
Communication transcends every boundary – whether it be age, seniority or industry. For instance, if you’re a healthcare professional looking to transition into marketing, you can leverage your ability to convey complex medical concepts in a simplified manner to the general public to effectively communicate with diverse audiences. Similarly, an experienced engineer shifting to entrepreneurship can harness their communication skills to pitch innovative ideas to potential investors.
Problem-solving is a critical skill because it gives you the ability to effectively address challenges, make informed decisions and drive innovation. To adapt to new situations, navigate uncertainty and find solutions. It can also help with decision-making, conflict resolution and resource management. For example, a military officer transitioning to project management can draw from their history of creating strategies, applying the same meticulous planning to ensure project success.
If you’re thinking of a career change, you know you’ll need to adapt to your new field. That’s where your flexibility skills come in. Consider, for instance, a seasoned researcher entering the field of renewable energy. Their ability to quickly grasp complex topics translates into efficiently learning new technologies and regulations.
Flexibility means you are also able to adapt to change in a dynamic professional landscape, where new technologies, trends and opportunities are always happening. It gives you resilience in the face of change, and facilitates effective teamwork by making it easier to adjust to the working styles and preferences of team members.
Critical thinking is an essential professional skill because it empowers you to analyse, evaluate and interpret information and situations effectively. As a critical thinker you are adept at evaluating various options, considering potential outcomes, and making well-informed decisions. You solve problems, assess risks, and resolve conflict. Your professional experience and insight will foster your critical thinking skills as you make a career change. For instance, a financial analyst transitioning to environmental advocacy can apply their detail-focused mind to dissecting data and advocating for sustainable policies.
Time management skills help you to effectively prioritise tasks and achieve your goals efficiently. They mean you can be productive and meet deadlines (meaning less stress!), as well as make decisions, as you are able to determine the most effective use of your time to complete your tasks and projects. Think of how a seasoned journalist shifting to freelance writing can excel in meeting deadlines and maintaining a structured workflow, ensuring timely content delivery.
Collaboration. It’s at the heart of so many jobs. Which is why it’s one of the top 10 transferable skills. Collaborating in a team allows individuals to tap into each other’s strengths and combine expertise to solve complex problems and make informed decisions. It can also lead to more creative and innovative solutions than you might come up with on your own. This drives more effective project management and tends to help solve problems more quickly. Collaboration also means sharing your skills and experience with others, and in turn learning from them – which is always a good thing.
Creativity knows no age limits. Changing careers is an opportunity to apply your creativity skills in a whole new environment. And that’s an exciting proposition. Because creativity is about finding solutions. Fostering innovation. Thinking differently and offering fresh perspectives. And as a career changer, the experience you’ve already garnered provides a deep well of creativity to draw on and apply to your new vocation.
Leadership isn’t confined to management roles; it comes from experience, empathy and a collaborative mindset. These skills help you influence and inspire others, regardless of your formal title. By leading through example, you can motivate colleagues, drive positive change and contribute to a more productive and collaborative work environment – even if you’re shifting into a new professional field. Think of an experienced nurse, for instance, moving into non-profit management. They can use their compassionate leadership to motivate their team and drive initiatives that positively impact communities. Leadership is also about sharing your ideas and insights, being proactive, accountable and willing to take responsibility for your work.
In today’s digital age, embracing technology is crucial, for all professionals, including those changing careers. Even the Australian government’s National Skills Commission states that “Several technology tools are so universal in that they are likely to be used by most, if not all jobs. These common technology tools include using the internet, sending emails, texts or instant messages, and video conferencing”. And given the pace of change of technology and its impact on the world of work (who foresaw the impact artificial intelligence technologies would have, even ten years ago?), it’s important to make ongoing learning in technology a key tenet of your professional life, wherever it may take you.
Emotional intelligence involves understanding, managing and effectively utilising emotions, both your own and those of others. It is one of the most human of the transferable skills. Emotional intelligence aids communication, collaboration and relationship building. It helps you navigate cultural differences and communicate effectively with colleagues from various backgrounds. Individuals with good emotional intelligence skills can accurately interpret both verbal and nonverbal cues, leading to clearer and more empathetic communication. This skill is vital for understanding others’ perspectives, addressing concerns and building rapport.
How to enhance your transferable skills
Many transferable skills are innate – to varying degrees. However, you can always work to hone and enhance yours. Here are few techniques to do so:
- Start by identifying your existing transferable skills. Reflect on your experiences, both within and outside your professional life, and recognise instances where you’ve demonstrated qualities such as teamwork, problem-solving and leadership.
- Engage in ongoing learning experiences to enhance your skill set. Online courses, workshops, seminars and industry events provide opportunities to develop and refine transferable skills. You can also develop stronger abilities through activities outside of your normal professional sphere, such as volunteering.
- Actively seek feedback from mentors, colleagues or supervisors. Constructive feedback helps you identify areas for improvement so you can refine your skills over time. And try to apply your transferable skills in various contexts. Engage in group projects, presentations or initiatives that allow you to showcase your abilities.
Boost your transferable skills
At Charles Sturt, we recognise how important transferable skills are. So we’ve developed micro-credentials – short courses that let you dip your toe into the university waters and upskill quickly for your career. Gain key skills in as little as eight weeks – skills that are transferable to any other industry, such as leadership, communication and teamwork.