How to highlight transferable skills in your job application

By Phil, Work It Out volunteer • 28 November 2022

Are you thinking of applying for a different kind of job, but you’re not sure you have the skills? In this blog, Work It Out volunteer Phil shows you how to identify your transferable skills and highlight them on your CV.

It can be daunting to apply for a job if you feel like you don’t have any direct experience. But don’t automatically walk past different roles or opportunities in other sectors. Clearly, to be a pilot you would need some flying experience. Likewise, being able to swim is a given if you want to be a swimming instructor. For many jobs though, it is just a matter of changing your mindset and recognising that so many of the skills, qualities and experiences you have in your current role, might equally apply to the role you want. It’s just in a different context.

Skillset for a new job

Perhaps the best way of illustrating what I mean, here is the story of a young woman I helped through Work It Out. She was in a care sector role, but wanted to get into event management. The skills she needed for the events role were:

  • Working well as part of a busy, multi-skilled team
  • Being able to remain calm under pressure
  • Experience of working with health and safety and other regulations
  • Top-level communication skills with people from different backgrounds
  • Experience of working to a tight budget
  • Willingness to work flexibly
  • Commitment to delivering the very best customer service.

A role had come up but she was unsure about whether to apply as she had no event experience. However, as I read through her background in the care sector, I saw she had an amazing CV, full of relevant skill, ability and experience. Here’s what I scribbled on my notepad about her existing skills:

  • Ability to work in high pressure and emotionally charged settings
  • Experience of working in a regulated environment and making effective risk assessments
  • Accustomed to working with limited resources
  • Experienced in working flexibly, including evenings, overnights and weekends
  • Ability to work well as part of a team, alongside staff from different disciplines and varying seniority
  • Able to work independently and in a fast-paced environment, taking effective critical decisions under pressure
  • Ability to show empathy while remaining focused and professional, delivering the very best service to an incredibly diverse customer audience
  • Experience of training mentoring and coaching others.

What a list! She had really relevant skills and all she needed to do was see how she could transfer them to her dream role. That’s what I mean when I talk about having a different mindset: just seeing your background from a different perspective.

3 steps to getting opportunities you want

The next time you want to apply for a different type of role, try these 3 steps:

  1. Read the job pack and jot down the key skills in the person specification, using the words they do.
  2. Look over each job you have had. Close your eyes and think about your daily or weekly routine in each one. Make a list of all the skills you needed to do it well and all the experiences it gave you.
    – Did you have to deal with a range of customers? If so, do you have patience, empathy and great communications skills?
    – Was your boss always throwing things at you at the last minute? If the answer is yes, are you flexible and great at working under pressure?
    – Did you have to learn new IT packages? If you did, are you a quick learner and computer literate?
    – Did you take on the training or the supervision of new starters?
  3. Compare your two lists. Put a ring around all the qualities you’ve proved you have and their matching items in the person specification. If you can see some of the same things coming up in both lists, just like the young woman I mentioned earlier, then perhaps it’s not that big a leap from where you currently are and worth a shot.  Plus, you’ve already got the beginning of your application laid out in front of you! 

So, don’t automatically walk past opportunities to work in different roles or sectors.  Change your mindset, blow your own trumpet and give it a go! Good luck!

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