In today’s rapidly-shifting job market, you might feel like you don’t have the skills to change to a new career. But what employers are really looking for are soft skills – which you probably already have. Read on to find out if you can list these coveted transferable skills on your resume!

By: Jeff Beckham for Let’s Eat, Grandma


For most of us, the days of a long career with a single company are long gone. Studies show that the average person will hold 12 different jobs over their career. On top of that, research says that most people spend less than five years at any particular position.

We’re finding ourselves in career transitions more and more often. That’s certainly what we see at Let’s Eat, Grandma, where around 60% of our resume clients are not only changing jobs, but changing industries.

While learning new skills can be scary if you’re making a big career shift, you actually already have valuable know-how to offer in your new field. So-called soft skills — like being able to get along with a variety of people — are useful in just about any job. And the good news is that senior leaders increasingly say soft skills are more important than hard skills (like proficiency in using a particular piece of software).

Here are some of the soft skills that are most transferable when you’re changing industries.

1. Communication

This is the big one. It’s tough to be successful in any industry without the ability to clearly express your ideas. Whether you need to deliver a sales analysis report or get support for your new fundraising project, being a strong communicator is key. (This isn’t just about one-way communications. Good communication also entails listening to others and facilitating discussions.)

An image from behind a glass screen showing three businesspeople collaborating on a project; one writes on the glass screen with a marker while the other two watch and analyze. Collaborating on a project is a valuable transferable job skill.
Skills like collaboration and leadership will transfer across any industry.

2. Collaboration

Teamwork and collaboration are the backbone of today’s working style. Striving toward a common goal requires the ability to be reliable and put the team’s needs before your own. That often calls for increasing your self-awareness and ability to empathize with other points of view.

3. Creativity

Some people think being creative is a talent – something you’re either born with or not. It’s actually a skill, and one that you can develop with practice.

Creativity in the workplace encompasses defining a goal, gathering information about it, deciding which problems you’d like to solve, and testing those solutions. In fact, LinkedIn listed creativity as the #1 skill that companies need in 2019.

4. Critical Thinking

How do you make decisions? Employers want people who can analyze a problem and decide on a reasonable solution based on facts. Being a trusted decision-maker tells an employer they won’t need to micromanage you.

5. Multitasking

True multitasking—your brain doing several tasks at the same time—doesn’t really happen. Instead, we switch from task to task really fast. But still, it’s a useful transferable skill to have in today’s job market. Can you take several orders at once? Juggle multiple requests? Keep people updated on more than one project? If so, you’ll be that much more attractive to a busy employer.

6. Flexibility

Change is a constant companion for today’s workers. Something that works today may not work tomorrow. So adapting to changing conditions is more important than ever.

7. Leadership

Even if you don’t plan to be a manager, leadership skills are important in any role. Leadership can mean taking the initiative on a project, motivating others to help you out, or keeping your cool under pressure.

How to Emphasize Your Transferable Skills

If your previous jobs didn’t give you a chance to build up these transferable skills, don’t worry! There are plenty of opportunities out there.

Volunteering, especially in an area related to the industry you’re moving into, is a great way to kick-start that transition and develop your transferable skills.

You can even use your favorite hobby to practice your transferable skills. For example, being part of a hiking, acting, or writing club could give you the chance to be a leader, to be a better communicator, and to sharpen your creativity.

Remember, too, that you’re always building on these important transferable skills. They’re a part of your life. (Making plans? That’s another form of project management.) Just be aware of the skills you’re working on and remain open to how they fit the job you want.


About the Author

Jeff’s writing spans internal communications, content marketing, and brand journalism, as well as freelance stories for Wired, Texas Monthly, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, Slate, and Deadspin. He advises Let’s Eat, Grandma on content strategy and loves talking with fascinating innovators and telling the world about their work. A native Texan, he lives in Austin, where he continues his search for the world’s best breakfast taco. You can connect with Jeff on LinkedIn, Twitter, or his website.

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