Are you confused about this talk of “soft skills” for getting a job? Do you wonder what it means to have “transferable” skills?
Do you want to have a fast way to find out what your soft, transferable – or whatever employers want skills – are and then use them to get a job with a lot less stress?
A bit about my career journey
As a professional who grew up with immigrant parents, I can tell you that I know first hand how painful it is to grow up with job stress. As a teen and then an adult I wanted to make sure I was always employable, but it was hard to find and keep work. Then when I did find work I loved, I frequently was underpaid and treated badly. Does that sound like a story you can identify with?
Once I found out what I really wanted, knew how to look for work in the existing market, and learned to align my strategies for results, things got a lot better. In fact I developed so many job-find skills that I became the job search guru for everyone who knew me. Add to that a few projects of interviewing hundreds of newcomers, employers and people transitioning into new careers, and I now have a winning strategy to help people get to their career goals.
Why do I care? Because I can’t stand to see people unhappy at work, stressed in the workplace and not moving forward with their life goals. That’s why today I want to share with you a difficult concept in the work search world.
The idea is that no matter how much you know how to do something or how technically skilled you are, you have to have “soft skills” to succeed.
What are soft skills exactly? And what is the difference between soft and transferable skills?
Soft skills and transferable skills
Soft skills are the inner skills that allow you to learn, think strategically and solve problems.
They are also the personal skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. And they are the interpersonal skills required to work with others, contribute to a team, lead groups and projects, communicate and deal effectively with conflict. Finally they are the intercultural skills that help you pick up clues on how to understand and process cultural difference, and find ways to get along with people who are different from you. Soft skills are the ways you communicate with and are present to others that helps them to feel comfortable with you.
Transferable skills are the skills that you can use no matter what industry you are in or what job you do.
For example if you are an engineer you can probably read blue prints. That is a transferable skill because it is required for many other industries and job titles. If you are a musician you can probably memorize things quickly and listen more carefully to your environment than other people can. Think about all the professions that require those skills! And if you are an administrative assistant you are probably organized, a good planner, and can keep a lot of details in your head at once. I don’t know too many jobs that wouldn’t require those skills. Those are all examples of transferable skills. They are both soft skills and technical skills that you can use to transfer across disciplines. And there is a third category that I will get to in a minute.
Want a copy of the Transferable Skills List?
Click here to download your copy of the Transferable Skills list and get an instant guide to your skills.
How to find YOUR transferable (soft and technical) skills
Here is how you can quickly discover your transferable skills. Ask yourself this question: What do I know how to do that helps solve ______________problem?
Now insert any word that describes a skill you have: (solve a ) Mechanical (problem)…
- Systems maintenance
Or whatever you are good at. Then separate the list into soft skills and technical skills. Here’s my list to give you an idea:
- Teach, instruct, present
- Solve career problems
- Connect people
- Organize, facilitate and manage projects
- Create a great team environment
- Help others feel included and appreciated
- Structure information so others can understand it easily
- Help people find their inner worth, dreams and confidence
- Run webinars
- Use computer software
- Create videos
- Play the piano
- Create online team shared plans and documents with digital apps
- Cook for large groups of people
- Paint houses
Naming your qualities
Once you have your list, you should make a list of the qualities people see in you, like patience, optimism, helpfulness. If you can’t think of any, go to “The Virtues Project” and get a list to choose from. Qualities and virtues are the same thing – they are the ideal principles for how to live and we all have many of them.
For me my top qualities are: passion and enthusiasm, leadership, vision and motivation. I can also be kind, encouraging, patient, diligent, creative and friendly.
Let’s try this for a resume
Now I am fully equipped with my transferable skills, I am ready to apply for many different jobs that use any combination of my skills and qualities. When I write my resume, I will use my qualities and skills at the top of the first page to get the reader’s attention because I know I only have 7 seconds to do that.
For job #1 I could say,
“I am a passionate and enthusiastic leader who is skilled at creating a warm and inclusive team environment while organizing projects to get the job done in the required time frame.”
For a job #2 I could say,
“I am a quick learner who can easily help others understand new information and structure it so it is accessible to the organization.”
And for job #3 I could say:
“I can provide practical support to people by cooking, driving, helping them with their computer skills and helping them to believe in themselves.”
All these three sentences were written in less than two minutes because I had my chart in front of me to help me focus on whatever job I am applying for. I could use the same strategy for interviews. Focus on the soft and technical skills and the qualities I have and pitch them to the interviewer to show how I can solve whatever problem they want to solve by hiring me.
Now let’s try it for an interview statement
Job #1: If you need a manager who can motivate and build a highly functioning team while meeting production deadlines, that is my specialty.
Job #2: To help the department be more focused and productive, I have been known to be invaluable for understanding new information and structuring it so others can access and use it quickly and effectively.
Job #3: Whatever practical things are required, I can do them and help the people around me feel encouraged and motivated at the same time. I’m a great cook, can drive and can teach basic digital skills to anyone who needs help.
Now you know what soft skills are and how they are part of your transferable skills repertoire. You also know that if you can name your soft skills, your technical skills and your qualities (or virtues) you can easily write or speak to a specific job you want. Remember that the key is to focus on how your skills help the potential employer solve the problem for which they created the job.
So now that you have knowledge, examples, and your own education and experience to work with, get started on your list! Remember, if you can identify your skills and speak to them in ways that solve employers, you will always be seen as a valuable employee and a top talent hire.
Soft skills are the inner, interpersonal, and intercultural skills you have to work with people.
Transferable skills are the soft and hard skills you have that can be used in many different kinds of jobs. They are also the qualities you have that allow you to live ethically in the world.
Making a list of your transferable skills is easy when you ask yourself this question: What do I know how to do that helps solve ______________problem?
Use this list to write or speak about your capacity to solve an employer’s problem for both your resume and in your interview to be more effective in your job search.
And when you are ready for the next career learning step go straight to our “Finding the job you want: The inner and outer game” $7 course! Such a crazy low price to save you from career frustration and get you to the job you deserve!
Marie Gervais, PhD, CEO Shift Management is a business-to-business entrepreneur who specializes in helping employers train their middle management to lead, get their workplace learning online and interactive, and conduct team assessments to figure out who to promote and how. She has a background in integrating internationally-trained individuals to the workplace and has supported many businesses in their efforts to hire, retain, support and promote immigrant and diverse employees.
Get in touch – she would love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org or 780-454-5661