Show Off Your Transferable Skills


In this week’s episode, Jessie McCoy of Three Rivers Community College, talked about how students who are returning to college are adding to their already-existing skills. In fact, she had a term for it – up-skill. “You’re bringing new skills to skills you already own,” she explained. “You’re enhancing [what you already know.]”

You’re probably skilled in areas that you’ve never even thought about. Can you multi-task? Are you a careful organizer and bookkeeper? How about problem-solving or effectively communicating an idea – are those qualities where you excel?

These are all examples of “transferable skills,” and if you’re considering a change of careers, these are features that you’ll want to emphasize to a potential new employer. Transferable skills are the essential skills and qualities that are valuable in any employee – no matter what the specific job or industry.

The term was first used in the job-hunter’s bible, What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job Hunters and Career Changers. The phrase refers to skills we take from job-to-job, which book author Richard Bolles Nelson originally broke into three broad categories: people skills (communicating, teaching, coaching, supervising), data skills (record keeping, researching, translating and compiling data), and a more amorphous category called “things” (operating computers/equipment, assembling and repairing).

And, if you’re planning a career change, it’s especially important that your resume reflect your transferable skills. There are several ways to do this.

According to the SC ATE National Resource Center, there are three popular formats used in preparing resumes. While the chronological resume (which lists work experience in reverse order) is the format that most people recognize, the other two types may be more effective at highlighting transferable skills – and therefore, may be a better choice if you’re changing careers.

A functional resume breaks out job skills by function, rather than dates of employment, providing the opportunity to emphasize transferable skills and particular abilities that you want to highlight. According to career website, showcasing transferable skills up front helps prospective employers see the key words they may be looking for. You could, for example, include a list of transferable skills within a “Qualifications Summary” near the top of your resume. (Example: “Highlights of my related skills include” followed by a bulleted list.) Your resume can then go on to offer examples of how you successfully used these skills in a list of Experience Highlights. ( recommends using the “CAR” — challenge, actions, results — approach: Briefly describe the challenges you faced followed by a brief description of the actions you took to overcome the challenges and another brief description of the results.)

Another alternative is the combination resume, which is a hybrid of the functional and chronological styles This format may be particularly suited to job hunters who have a solid work history in a different career area. By enabling you to emphasize particular skills, a combination resume can also be useful if you spent a significant amount of time in a workplace, and had diverse job responsibilities.

Whichever resume style you choose, the SC ATE National Resource Center reminds job hunters to always place their contact information at the top of the page, followed by their objective. And don’t forget to show off your transferable skills. As Jessie McCoy notes, “These are the skills you already own.”

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