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Resumes: How to define your ‘transferable skills’

Resumes: How to define your ‘transferable skills’

Lucy Kippist

When sitting down to apply for a job the first thing people think about is education and experience. Yet the skills you’ve acquired outside of work could actually be the key to getting the next job you want.

Career experts Gillian Kelly and Greg Calvert told CareerOne that no matter how old you are or how many jobs you’ve had, identifying your transferable skills is one of the most important steps in the job-seeking process.

“Transferable skills showcase your capacity to do the job and are absolutely essential in the current job market,” said Gillian Kelly a career coach and resume expert from Career Edge in Brisbane.

Greg Calvert is the president of the Tasmanian division of the Career Development Association of Australia. He says ‘transferable skills’ are simply the skills that we’ve acquired with life experience and in many cases those skills are acquired outside the work environment.

“Look outside your existing work role and consider your skills in the context of the rest of your life. For example, your family life, volunteering or hobbies,” he says.

“School leavers or graduates who may only have held part-time jobs or are still studying will have a gained a number of skills - possibly more than someone who has been in a senior position for a number of years,” he said.

How to ‘find’ your transferable skills

Gillian Kelly says the secret to identifying your transferable skills lies in the research you do on the job you are applying for.

“Really look at the job advertisement and find out what the core dimensions of the role are. Then, have a look at other advertisements for similar roles and find the things that employers are consistently looking for in your favoured position,” says Ms Kelly.

Ms Kelly says government roles are a great place to start your research as they often include specific selection criteria that really “break down the important parts” of the role.

“Another approach is to make yourself a two-sided list; on the first side of the list look at yourself and identify how you meet the specific needs of the role.

“On the other side, identify how you can demonstrate these skills in your voluntary work, studies, hobbies or schools,” she says.

How to present your transferable skills

Once you’ve identified what your skills are, the next step is to present them.

“You need to think about how you will use the transferable skills in your resume and at the interview,” said Ms Kelly.

She says the ‘profile’ or ‘career overview’ or ‘entry’ section of a resume is a great place to position your transferable skills.

“For example you can say, ‘Accomplished professional seeking an administration position which can utilise my organisational skills and high levels of motivation’.

Mr Calvert recommends having a stand alone ‘Skills’ section and listing each transferable skill with a bullet-point and explanation of ‘how’ you acquired the skills underneath.

“The ‘how’ is very important. For every item on your resume, think: ‘How can I portray this skill so that it supports the idea of doing what I want to do in my next job?’

“If you can't make it support what you want to do, leave it out,” he advises.

During the job interview many of the same rules apply.

“Evidence your capacity to do the job,” said Ms Kelly. “You need to show ‘where’ you got your skills and provide examples and scenarios of how you got them and how they have contributed to your past success.”

For people who may have been out of work for a long period of time or may be changing careers, Ms Kelly recommends the use of referees who can ‘vouch’ for your skills.

She advises contacting potential referees to ask their permission before including their names and contact details on your resume.

“[Also] make sure they are aware of the role you are going for so they can be prepared,” she said.