How to Demonstrate Transferable Skills on Your Resume
No matter the reason for your job search, your hunt will likely involve looking over job postings. As you peruse the various job descriptions, hopefully you’ll find a few that sound intriguing, exciting even.
After reading the job description a few times, you may decide to toss your hat into the ring. But there’s one shred of doubt that’s been looming in the back of your mind: your experience is a little out-of-the-box.
Perhaps you’re making the move from marketing to sales. Or, maybe all of your experience has been in the nonprofit sector, and you’re switching to a tech startup.
Regardless of the specifics, you know it’s probably going to take a little more elbow grease to prove yourself as a no-brainer fit for the position. The best way to do this is to highlight these transferable skills on your resume. Here’s how!
What Are Transferable Skills?
Transferable skills are the skills you pick up in one employment setting that you can seamlessly transfer to your next job. They aren’t industry-specific. You’ll use many transferable skills—like writing, communication, and problem-solving skills—in every job you ever have.
That said, there are two types of transferable skills: hard and soft. It’s critical that you highlight these skills on your resume.
Hard skills are specific skills that you usually use in a particular job or career field. Coding, data analysis, and speaking a foreign language are all hard skills. For example, you likely won’t need extensive programming experience if you work as a social worker, so programming wouldn’t be a hard skill for a social work career.
Soft skills, on the other hand, are skills that nearly every career will need, no matter the job or career field. Employers are less concerned about how or where you gained your soft skills, as much as the fact that you possess said skills. Soft skills include:
- Collaboration skills
- Time management
You may think it’s wise to highlight one set of transferable skills on your resume over the other. However, as Doug Ebertowski, FlexJobs Career Coach, notes, “It is important to consider both hard and soft transferable skills. Soft skills represent the personal skills you possess, and hard skills demonstrate specific abilities that address industry or technical functions.”
Highlighting Your Transferable Skills on a Resume
The best job search tactic involves customizing your cover letter and resume for every position you apply to. The extra time and care you put into this step makes all the difference.
But don’t create a laundry list of all of your transferable skills and throw them on your resume. Instead, select only the relevant transferable skills you’ll need for a specific position and highlight those.
Ebertowski explains, “The key here is to not just assume a general list of ‘transferable’ skills, but rather closely study the role that you are applying to and tailor your resume to demonstrate that you are the candidate that meets those needs.”
Analyze the Job Description
Start by taking a fine-tooth comb to the description. As you look it over, keep a notepad and a pen next to you. Jot down the words and requirements that are repeated or stand out.
Does the phrase “skilled communicator” crop up a few times? Has the description emphasized that they need someone who can juggle multiple projects at one time? Write those things down so that you can come back to them later.
What Are Your Transferable Skills?
Take the list of core skills the company wants from applicants for that role and compare your skills and experience to identify which of your current job skills are transferable and should be showcased on your resume.
Perhaps they’re looking for someone who is an expert at managing project timelines and budgets. While you might not have a ton of traditional project management experience, if you saw a lot of projects through from start to finish in your last role as a marketing manager, that’s a transferable skill you should emphasize.
It’s important that you’re honest with yourself here. There’s nothing wrong with pulling out different pieces of an experience to highlight or finding a way to present that information in a way that’s more relevant to your desired position. But don’t overstate your skills, claiming you have extensive and relevant project management experience if that’s not the case.
Start With the Keywords
As you customize your resume, make sure you refer back to the list you created when you examined the job description. These are the keywords you want to incorporate in your resume as you discuss your transferable skills.
If an employer mentions specific skills in a job description, it’s safe to assume they want someone with those particular skills. But, if you don’t use the same wording or phrasing on your resume from the job posting, you may not get called in for an interview.
Though a human reviewing your resume will likely recognize that your “customer service” experience is nearly the same as your “client service” experience, there’s always the chance that your resume will be screened by an applicant tracking system (ATS) before a human ever glances at it.
An ATS is programmed to look for specific keywords—usually the ones from the job posting. If you don’t use the exact same keywords, there’s a good chance your resume will end up in the “no” pile, unfortunately.
Think Like a Career Changer
Whether you’re changing careers or applying for a different role in the same field, approach your resume writing like a career changer.
If you’re jumping careers, say from accountant to restaurant manager, your transferable skills may not appear obvious at first glance. However, when it comes to highlighting transferable skills, a resume that’s customized can help someone connect how you plan to transition from one to the other. For example, an accountant might want to point out that they are very good at calculating profit margins, something that’s very valuable to a restaurant manager who has to carefully consider thin margins and inventory management.
Tailoring your resume for a job can be nerve-wracking—especially when you’re feeling doubtful about whether or not you check all of the boxes.
Don’t look at your seemingly untraditional experience as a drawback and instead think of it as a positive. While you might assume that some of your skills or previous roles might be totally out of left field, they can give you a level of knowledge and expertise that sets you apart from the other candidates.
Those unique experiences could equip you with some know-how that could serve you well in that position—even if it seems totally unrelated.
The Proof Is in the Pudding
Now comes the hard part: demonstrating your transferable skills on your resume.
In an interview, you’ve got unlimited “space” to talk about your transferable skills. Not so on a resume! You have to keep your points brief and on target.
Consider using the STAR method to explain how your transferable skills benefit the employer. Though more commonly used in an interview, it works perfectly for showcasing your transferable skills on a resume.
STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. On your resume, describe a situation you faced, identify the task(s) you had to finish, describe the actions you took, and explain the results you’ve achieved.
For example, perhaps you’ve worked as a customer support specialist for the past couple of years and are considering applying for a sales role. In describing your job as a customer support specialist, you might have a bullet point that says:
- Answered customer questions and solved customer problems
Or, you could adjust that to say:
- Established and maintained positive relationships with clients and customers by answering their questions and assisting them in troubleshooting, resulting in a 97% satisfaction rate
See how that draws stronger connections to what would be required of you in a sales position?
Transfer Your Skills
Applying to any job can be intimidating, even more so if you’re applying to a position that you don’t appear to be a “traditional” match for. However, taking the time to highlight your transferable skills on your resume can help an employer understand how and why you’re the right person for the role.
Need help with your resume? Consider meeting with a FlexJobs Career Coach. They can help you identify your transferable skills and give you strategies for showcasing them throughout your job searching process!
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