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Advice / Career Paths / Career Change

This Simple Formula Makes Highlighting Transferable Skills Easy

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It’s not overstating it to say that knowing how to highlight transferable skills can make all the difference in your job search.

In case you need a quick refresher: They’re skills you picked up in a previous role that’ll help you excel in the one you’re applying to. But they’re distinct from other experience, because they’re closely (but not exactly) related to what’s called for in the job description.

So, if you’re changing careers, feeling a little under-qualified, or trying to explain a winding career path, you can use transferable skills to get a hiring manager to take a chance on you.

But just because they can be a game-changer doesn’t mean they apply in every situation. That’s because you can have experience that’s really valuable for your professional development, but that doesn’t translate. And you can possess lots of great skills, but still be underqualified for a given position.

To figure out if something’s a transferable skill worth mentioning, use this formula:

As a [prior role], I [explain a responsibility], which taught me [transferable skills]. That’s a skill I would draw on from day one as a [new role].

Of course, it’s not enough to simply fill in the blanks with anything that jumps to mind. (That would be the amazing childhood game called Mad Libs.) You want the sentence you end up with to makes you sound like an even stronger applicant.

Here’s What it Looks Like

  • As an administrative assistant, I drafted and proofread executive correspondence, which taught me how to write persuasively for a variety of audiences and with different goals in mind. That’s a skill I would draw on from day one as a communications assistant.

  • As a volunteer coordinator, I managed 150 people across three cities. It taught me how to keep a large group motivated, on task, and moving toward larger goals. That’s a skill I would draw on from day one in this management role.

  • As a [side gig title], I was also responsible for all of the processes that made my venture possible. It taught me next-level organization, as well as to be responsible for scheduling and invoicing, which are skills I would draw on from day one in this operations role.

In each instance, the applicant is explaining how they can use experience they already possess, and as the cliché goes, “hit the ground running.”

And Here’s What it Doesn’t Look Like

  • As a sales rep, I’m used to getting people to buy in which taught me how to make a persuasive argument. That’s a skill I would draw on from day one as executive director.

  • As a social media coordinator, I create and post updates across all of our company’s platforms, which taught me how to write engaging statuses. That’s a skill I would draw on from day one in this senior content role.

  • As a consultant, I have to continuously generate my own leads, which taught me to have a strong self-driven work ethic. That's a skill I would draw on from day one as I learned what I needed to be a software engineer.

True, these options are technically filling in the blanks, but they’re not actually showing that the person already possesses the skill they’re claiming they have. Making a persuasive argument isn’t the same as leading a team, writing strong statuses isn’t the same as writing lengthy content, and being self-motivated enough to learn to code doesn't mean you already can. In other words, saying you’re capable of learning a new skill is not the same as saying you've been using it all along, just in a different way.

If you’re not sure whether your example highlights your abilities (or looks like you’re reaching), ask yourself if you can give two separate examples of how you’d use that skill in your new role. If you can think of more than one way it applies, you know it’s not a fluke and something you could really rely on in your new job.

Once you confirm that, the next step is to work these lines into your application. This cover letter template makes it easy—or at least a little bit easier. Once that’s set, pat yourself on the back because you just made a pretty strong case for yourself to land an interview at your dream job.