How to Leverage Transferable Skills for Career Change

Presentation Skills Image

Ability to do Presentations is a Key Transferable Skill Appreciated by Most Employers

Few years back, I applied for the position of Assistant Manager in a Telecom Company. At that time, I was working as an Audit Assistant in a small audit firm. There were 34 candidates for the post and most of them had a better resume than mine. However the interview board selected me on the basis of my performance in their stress tests. In those tests I had to demonstrate my ability to effectively handle tough people.  My earlier job as an Audit Assistant was quite a tough job since no person like to be audited and I always faced stiff resistance from the line staff. Over time, I learned to handle such people and that ’transferable skill’ helped me to get this new job.

What are Transferable Skills ?

Transferable Skills are also known as ‘Crossover Skills’ or ‘Portable Skills’. They are versatile skills that could be applied to multiple jobs. One of the most valued transferable skills is the ability to communicate clearly.  You could gather transferable skills from working or volunteering or attending classes or even from parenting. If you develop transferable skills consciously, it could turbocharge your career change.

Why Transferable Skills are Important?

Transferable skills could help you in the ways given below:

  1. Take a totally new job and shine in that role. For example, we could often see CEOs of manufacturing companies taking up similar roles in software companies or telecom companies and still doing a great job. What makes them successful is their transferable ‘general’ skills.
  2. Transferable skills ensure professional resilience. Whenever there are lay offs, employees with more transferable skills usually stays.This is mainly because they could be easily re allocated to other roles.  Even if they get fired, they will be able to find another job easily.
  3. People with key transferable skills get promoted quicker. As you go up the career ladder, your general skills becomes more important than special skills. For example, a manager needs more soft skills than a regular employee.
  4. Transferable Skills could earn you more money.  The more ways an employer can use you, the more money you are likely to get. For example, I know a project manager who is used more as a pre-sales person by his employer due to his excellent presentation skills. This earns him a commission in addition to the normal salary.

How to Develop Transferable Skills for Career Change

If you are a software engineer planning to become a project manager, you should start learning skills related to project management such as communication skills, organizational skills, problem solving skills, negotiation skills etc.

If you are planning a career change, you need to perform the steps given below in order to gain maximum leverage from your transferable skills:

  1. Research the New Job and make a list all the transferable skills required for this job. It could be done by a simple Google search or by consulting a career coach or by taking help from a mentor.
  2. Make an Inventory of Your Existing Skills and try to match it with the skills listed in Step 1. This would give you the gaps in your skills inventory.
  3. Fill the Gap by developing the required skills. This could be done by reading related books, by practicing the skills at office, home or club or by going to back to school if needed.

Another example, if you are in Middle East, knowledge of Arabic and the ability to properly deal with native people are skills that would be appreciated in any job. Hence for a rewarding career here, it would be a great idea to start learning Arabic and the middle east culture and heritage.

A List of Transferable Skills

Transferable Skills needed for each job should be identified separately. However a general list of transferable skills are given below:

  1. Communication Skills: Language Skills, Clear Verbal and Written Communication Skills, Presentation Skills, Public Speaking Skills, Coaching and Training Skills
  2. Leadership Skills: Negotiation Skills, Ability to Conduct Meetings, Problem Solving Skills, Delegation Skills, Organization Skills, Time Management Skills, Money Management Skills, Ability to Supervise
  3. Technical Skills: General Ability to Work with Computers, Operate Machines, Repair or Assemble Things etc.
  4. Creative / Artistic Skills: Ability to Draw, Sketch, Design, Play Instruments etc.
  5. Analytical Skills: Data Gathering Skills, Data Analysis Skills, Auditing and Investigation Skills, Computing and Calculation Skills.
  1. Personal Skills: Reliability, Punctuality, Honesty, Integrity.

How sharp are your transferable skills? Are there more skills to add in this list?


  1. I read the article out of curiosity but fully got glued to it. I was so focussed that I got the whole essence of the write up. Thanks

  2. Binoy Kaladi says:

    Ravi Etta – Is it so simple ?? If yes, then I’m meeting all those criteria u’ve mentioned in ur article and I think I’m pretty late to act on it, even after having all those skills. So infact you can add one more point in that – Having those skills will not help us, but converting those skills effectively & timely is more important, he he.

    BTW – Gr8 one… especially it gave a new angle to me on that gap analysis part as a preparation itself, even before applying for a particular job !! Worth a try !!

    • It’s not simple but definitely possible if we plan properly. As you said, using in the right way and on time is important. In my case, I plan to write a book related to career transformation (some time later). The gaps I have are lack of writing skills and lack of credibility as a career expert. If this blog becomes a popular one over next 2-3 years both the gaps will be filled :-)

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