How to Identify Transferrable Work Skills

In order to change careers, you need to know what skills you already possess that you can use in a new role you might find more satisfying. Fortunately, many skills transfer well between careers.

People skills, for example, are useful at a large number and wide variety of jobs. So, too, are the abilities to manage your time and execute a project to completion. To find those transferrable work skills you possess, make use of employment statistics like worker mobility data and assess your skills on the job and off. Research the needs of the job force in which you will be competing and let a career coach apply his or her own skills to the effort.

As you formulate your list of transferrable work skills, be as specific as possible. For example, instead of listing “people skills,” define it further to “working in teams” or “helping customers resolve complaints” or “courting new clients.” Note what skills were required for your present job and identify the ones where you particularly excel. Then, note what skills are required for the jobs you are considering and look for overlap and crossover. Here are some other tips for identifying skills you possess that you can effectively transfer to a new career.

Examine Worker Mobility Data

Among the employment data available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics is worker mobility data, showing the percentage of people who transferred from one specific occupational group to another. With this information, you can see the most commonly chosen new careers by people coming from your current industry. The logic being, if more people changed from your current career to a particular new one, the skills you already have will help make you employable in this new career. Even if you decide not to work in one of these popular new careers, then you can still identify some of your most transferable work skills by comparing your current job to the jobs that the people once had and shifted away from. Oftentimes, career advancement happens when workers shift to a new vocation.

Take a Skills Assessment

Many state and non-profit agencies offer skills assessment services to identify areas in the workforce where you may have the greatest potential to succeed. Look up the local workforce center for your state and inquire about the skills assessment tests there may be available for you to take. Skills assessment tests examine your proficiency from beginner to expert in various tasks specific to certain fields.

Skills assessment tests are self-assessments, meaning all answers are based solely on your own judgment. It is, therefore, essential when taking a skills assessment test to be as honest as possible. Present yourself as you actually are and not as you would like to be for an employer to see you. That way, you can get the most accurate picture of where in the workforce you might succeed and be happiest.

By breaking down all possible job skills into specific fields and tasks, you can more easily analyze what skills you will be taking away from your current job you can most easily and effectively transfer to a new one. These skills will be good to note on your resume. Personality assessment tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) can also be helpful in identifying careers you would be suited for based on your personality.

Consider Transferable Life Skills

Some life skills also translate to work situations. Assess your life experiences and skills much the same as you would assess your work experiences and skills in seeking an appropriate career path forward. Just because you have not implemented certain skills you developed from your life outside of work into a job before, it does not mean those skills may be any less useful in a future job. This can be particularly helpful for those changing careers after age 50.

For example, a mom has extensive organizational, leadership, communication and empathetic skills, all of which could translate to the work realm. If you are multilingual, then it does not matter if you have never used that skill in a job before in terms of your qualifications for a future job involving translation. An avid sports fan may have unwittingly developed quite the skill in statistics. Consider the following questions:

  • What have you learned in your home or from your family?
  • What would your friends say are the skills they recognize in you most?
  • What do you enjoy with such a passion it has made you expert in skills you may not have even realized?

Research Your Prospects

Knowing what skills you bring from your old job is only half the equation in calculating which ones will transfer to a desirable new job. You also need to know the skills in demand for the types of jobs you are considering. The employee’s responsibilities and skillset needed to perform the job are just some of the things you need to know when considering a career change.

To find this out, speak with people already employed in these and similar positions. Ask what skills they needed to get hired and what skills they find most vital to effectively perform their job. Research careers in the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook. Attend job fairs, seminars, conferences and business socials in your chosen new field and speak with the people sitting behind the tables and presenting the talks and panels. Ask what they look for in a potential job candidate’s skill set. Study trade articles and publications to glean what is needed in a given field and what may be lacking you can fulfill.

Speak with a Career Coach

A professional career coach can help you to clarify your skills and experience moving forward. You can find career coaches certified by the ICF (International Coaches Federation) or PARCC (Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches) near you. A career coach will ask you about facets of your work life like your education, experience, interests and objectives. He or she will apply his or her own experience to your answers to help you carve out a realistic path forward into a new career that capitalizes on the skills and expertise you already possess.

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