There are times when we wish we be more competent across multiple fields. If it were possible, this would definitely make life so much easier. Here’s the good news: we may not be born with the natural ability to accomplish tasks from multiple industries, but we can most definitely learn how to do exactly that. All we need to do is to acquire portable skills, or what some people refer to as transferable skills.

170 - These Transferable Skills Will Help You Earn a Higher Salary When Switching Jobs

In this article, you will learn about 1) what transferable skills are, why they are important, and how to acquire those skills, 2) the most valuable transferable skills you need to acquire in order to earn a higher salary when switching jobs, and 3) how to present transferable skills on your CV.


Transferable skills are those abilities or skills that are relevant, useful and helpful across different disciplines, areas or fields. These are skills that can be used in one’s professional life and personal life, in social circles, educational groups, and other circles that the individual belongs to.

In a more formal definition, these are the skills that are “central to occupational competence in all sectors and at all levels, and include project management, leadership, communication, working in teams, and problem solving”. They are called transferrable skills because they can be transferred from one setting to another.

The topic on transferable skills becomes most relevant when it comes to looking for a job, or making a major career decision (such as a career change) and assessing one’s credentials. Human resource managers, headhunters and employers have a specific set of qualifications that they are looking for in candidates, and many of these pertain to the applicants’ transferable skills.

Take a look at this scenario. There are two people who are up for a single job vacancy. Candidate A seems to be the one with the advantage, since she graduated with honors from a more prestigious university, while Candidate B came from a little-known university. However, when the results came out, Candidate B ends up hired for the job because of the manner in which she presented her competencies.

This is just an example, but this scenario has played out several times, where other, seemingly more qualified (on paper) candidates were passed over in favor of those who have lower qualifications. The most likely difference may have been due to transferable skills. Candidate B may have been able to demonstrate that the portable skills she possesses make her more suitable for the job than Candidate A.

Importance of Transferable Skills

Transferable skills increase one’s “employability”. They are seen by many employers as a “plus” or “extra” to the qualifications that are required for the job that will be filled. Therefore, candidates who have transferable skills relevant to the job are viewed more favorably by employers.

Transferable skills ensure an individual’s professional resilience and career longevity. Changes and transitions tend to be handled more easily if the individual has the skills necessary to easily adapt to change.

Identifying Transferable Skills

It would be a good idea to sit down and think deeply about this. It is easy to list down all the transferable skills you can think of, but you have to be honest and objective about it, because some of them may not really apply to you.

When identifying the transferable skills that you possess, ask yourself these four questions first:

  1. What value can you offer to the company and, specifically, to the job that you are eyeing?
  2. Will your educational or academic qualifications be enough to enable you to take on the role and the responsibilities attached to it?
  3. How socially engaged are you and what potential connections can you bring with you and offer to the company?
  4. How well can you perform, in such a way that you will deliver what is required and, contribute to the enhancement and progress of the company?

The questions above will cover the issues on value, intellect, social engagement and performance. But you should also go beyond that. Ask yourself what you are passionate about, particularly in a career context. What is important to you, personally and professionally, and do they relate to each other? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What points are you proud of, and what are those that you want to change, or improve on?

By answering these questions, you will be able to slowly but surely uncover your transferable skills.

Acquiring Transferable Skills

As more and more employers are putting more weight to candidates’ transferable skills, looking at these skills as points for their employability, efforts at acquiring and developing them are also growing.

Unfortunately, we are not born with fully developed transferable skills. Some of these skills may be innate within us, but we have to hone them first to make them actually useful. Here are some of the factors that affect the development of transferrable skills.

  • Culture and upbringing. A child’s environment while growing up is instrumental in the development of his transferable skills. Exposure to various situations and circumstances will aid an individual in acquiring skills, such as communication skills, creativity, organizational skills, personal development, motivation, and analytical skills.
  • Some transferable skills are also imbibed through formal and informal education. Numeracy skills, for example, are learned starting from when a child first goes to school and encountered arithmetic and math. Information technology know-how is also learned from computer classes and lessons. Written communication skills are also honed at school. In some educational institutions, they incorporate arts, humanities and topics on corporate skills, since they acknowledge that these can be transferred to the workplace.
  • Previous jobs. People who have had prior experience in other jobs are often presumed to be more skilled, since they are expected to have faced situations that enabled them to hone these skills while they were in their previous jobs.
  • Hobbies and interests. Sometimes, you can learn a lot from your hobbies. If something interests you, even if it is outside your work expertise, you will be more inclined to learn more about it. In the process, you may be acquiring skills that you can use in other areas of your life.
  • Personal life experiences. Home life, personal relationships, major turning points and life decisions are bound to teach you a thing or two. Although you might not know it, they will also let you develop a skill in the process. There is truth to what some people say, about life being a “continuous learning experience”.


Here are some good news: all of us are born with at least one or two transferable skills. We just have to develop and hone it as we go through the various stages of life, such as growing up, interacting with family and friends, going to school, and entering the workforce. For example, we are all born with the ability to communicate with other people. We are all born with the natural ability to socialize, albeit to varying degrees.

When it comes to one’s professional life or career path, there are certain transferable skills that a person needs in order to be able to go up the ladder and be recognized.

1. Leadership skills

Employers are more attracted to candidates who can demonstrate that they have initiative and the potential to lead. Some of these skills include delegation, taking responsibility, motivating others and the ability to build rapport with other employees, especially the ones that you directly work with.

You do not have to be applying for a managerial or executive position to have leadership skills. Employers are more forward-looking than you think, so they will look at your potential as you stay longer with the organization and rise up through the ranks, until such time that your career path takes you to a higher, supervisory position.

2. Ability to work with a team

Teamwork is very important in all organizational structures. Therefore, you should show that you are able to work effectively as part of a team or a group. It is a given that entering an organization means working with other people. If you can fit right in, you’d be able to contribute better in the achievement of the organization’s goals.

3. Interpersonal Skills

These are also referred to as “people skills”. Your ability for social engagement will definitely work to your advantage. If you have coaching skills, delegation skills, and you can influence others, then you will be viewed as someone with the potential to lead and manage in the future.

Read this super interesting presentation on effective interpersonal communication skills.

[slideshare id=572591&doc=interpersonal-communication-skills-1219903500375587-8&w=640&h=330]

4. Personal Organization and Development Skills

Many things can be inferred just by looking at how organized one’s work is. Your ability to organize, structure and arrange your resources and tasks, from the beginning to end, will put you in very favorable light. This implies that you have your priorities straight, and you have a clear idea on how to go about performing your tasks towards the end goal or objective.

5. Administration and Time Management Skills

This is especially essential in jobs that are bound by deadlines. If you can show that you have excellent time management skills, your bosses will have more confidence that you will not incur any delays and will be able to meet deadlines as they fall due.

6. Personal Motivational Skills

You may have the ability to influence others and motivate them into action, but can you motivate yourself? How do you personally cope when things get rough, both in your personal and professional life? Stress is a constant companion, especially when one is working, but how do you manage it?

Your stress management and coping mechanisms will show your potential bosses how well you will be able to handle the workload that will be foisted off on you. It will also be an indicator of your ability to complete your work on time, without compromising quality.

7. Communication Skills

This covers one’s listening, verbal, and writing skills.

  • Listening skills: This is an often overlooked skill by many, but even the most successful businessmen cite it as one of the most important skills that individuals must have in order to succeed in business or in the workplace. Part of being observant is being able to not just hear, but to really listen. This means the information heard must be assimilated, processed and understood. Not listening well can lead to misinterpretations, which will then lead to mistakes and errors that could become potentially costly and damaging.
  • Verbal communication skills: The best way to get your message across is to talk about it. If you do not speak up, you will not be able to convey your message and, as a result, not get the result that you want or need. This covers how you address other people and how you talk to them in different circumstances or situations. Depending on the nature of the job, you might be required to speak with groups of people at one time, perform presentations, or be more personal and communicate on a one-on-one basis. If you could pull these off easily, then you have above average verbal communication skills.
  • Written communication skills: Employers also place a lot of value on how job candidates are able to write. There are many aspects looked at, aside from the technical writing skills. They will also zero in on one’s writing style – if it fits the job requirement – and the content. The best way to demonstrate this is to provide samples of written work.

8. Problem Solving

This is one of the skills that employers try their best to spot among candidates. Troubleshooting and coming up with viable solutions for problems is definitely a skill that requires a person to think outside the box and to look at an issue from different perspectives or angles.

9. Research and Critical Thinking

There are jobs that require a certain degree of research, interpretation, analysis and evaluation. Being able to do research or information-gathering is also a skill that is seen as very valuable, especially in this day and age where almost everything is anchored on the power of information, and how it is obtained, managed, and used.

These skills are good indicators of one’s potential when it comes to problem solving and becoming a leader in the future.

10. Numeracy Skills

There was a time when people were of the belief that you only need to have math and numeracy skills if you are going to work in finance, or in fields that work mainly with numbers and figures. That is no longer the case, since almost all industries involve numbers, which means that you should be able to have even the most basic numeracy skills in order to get by.

11. Information Technology Know-How

Almost all jobs these days involve the use of computers, software and applications. That is why having basic knowledge on information technology is almost always a minimum requirement in all job ads.

12. Technical Skills

You also get plus points if you are able to work with specific machines or equipment.

There are certainly a lot more transferable skills that you can include in your personal checklist, but the ones mentioned above are some of the most common ones that employers are looking for.

If you are applying for a job or want to shift to another career path, it would be a good idea to look at the job description and try to see if they have a checklist of skills that they are specifically looking for.


It is one thing to know that you possess this or that transferable skill; it is another thing to convince potential employers and bosses that you do have them. One of the most obvious steps is to indicate them on your resume or curriculum vitae (CV). But how should you present them? Here are some points to remember:

  • Identify the transferable skills that the employer is looking for. This will help you design your CV better, so you can make it more attractive to anyone who sees it. Read the job advertisements and postings thoroughly. You can also make inquiries, just in case you are missing something or find something difficult to understand.
  • Indicate only the transferable skills that relate to the position you are applying for. You may be tempted to list down all your transferable skills, thinking that the bigger the number, the better. Keep in mind that most employers look for quality over quantity. They may not be impressed with you having a long list of transferable skills when they are not going to be useful for the specific job or task that you are supposed to perform. For example, if you are applying for a sales or retail position, saying that you have technical knowledge in information technology may not make too much of an impact.
  • Although there is no standard CV format, you can try to change it so that your transferable skills are listed before your educational attainment or work experience. This way, the employers and human resource managers will spot them first.
  • Highlight those skills that will emphasize your potential as part of the team or organization. This is what the employers will be looking at, after all. State examples if you have to, but do not drone on and on, because you just might bore the employers who are going over your CV.
  • Provide examples, do not just enumerate. Do not let them just take your word for it. You have to be able to readily give examples that will add credence to your claims of possessing such transferable skills.

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