Soft skills concept on white

It may come as a surprise to some, but employers don’t just look for education and work experience. In order to achieve a viable long term employee, they also consider a range of skills that go beyond relevant technical requirements. Obviously you need to suit the role and possess all the minimum requirements, but so called transferable (or soft) skills can increase your chances of standing out in your next application.

If you’re like most candidates, the first thing you think about when applying for a new role is education and experience. However, this is often not the most important area. Many times, the skills you have acquired outside of your area of expertise can provide the key to achieving your new role.

No matter how experienced you are or how many different roles you have held, identifying and clearly articulating your transferable skills to a potential employer is very important. These transferable skills can be referred to as ‘soft’ skills and are key to achieving some roles – particularly if you are changing direction or careers – even if only slightly.

These skills matter because they can help you make a smooth and successful transition to a new role. They make you a valuable and contributing employee from your very first day in the role. While your specific area of expertise might be highly technical or specialised, transferable skills ensure you achieve a long term career.

How can they be acquired? Transferable skills are acquired by everyone starting from when you are born – they come from day to day interactions with family, formal schooling, university education, social interaction with friends, sporting activities, day to day work activities, workplace interactions, and throughout the course of life in general.

How do you identify them? Think about your areas of strength and weakness or use a formal self-assessment tool. Enlisting the help of a colleague or superior can help or alternatively try an online assessment tool – simply google ‘transferable skills assessment’. Your formal annual performance review process can also be a great place to make this happen. It’s simply a process of identifying a list of skills and going through and checking off all those that you feel you possess.

What are they? The areas to think about are broad, but generally cover some key areas:

  • People skills – communication, interpersonal/influencing, delegating, diplomacy, coaching/mentoring, leadership, presentation, tact and empathy, collaboration, customer service, negotiation, listening
  • Analytical skills – problem solving, research, data analysis, risk management, financial analysis, budgeting
  • Organisational skills – time management, prioritisation, resource management, project coordination, efficiency, productivity
  • Creativity & commercial acumen – the ability to solve problems with creative but viable solutions, thinking outside the box, and adapting to changing environments, market situations and company strategy are huge assets in today’s competitive world. Likewise understanding how your work fits into the bigger picture or broader company strategy is important.

But it doesn’t stop there. Once you’ve identified your skills, you need to prove them and articulate the ‘how’. It’s not enough to just say ‘I’m a great communicator’ you need to prove why you are a great communicator with examples. We always recommend an overview or profile and key capabilities section in your resume where you highlight some of these transferable skills together with an explanation of ‘how’ the skills were acquired. Likewise, in an interview, be prepared to articulate where you gained your skills with specific examples that demonstrate how they have contributed to past successes.

Would you like help identifying and articulating your transferable skills? Does your Resume need updating with some proof on how you obtained these transferable skills. If you would like assistance with your job applications and job search, please see our Resume Services and Job Search Coaching Services.

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