How to talk about your transferable skills for new tasks and jobs

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Smartt Principles

Nicole Smartt Serres is an author as well as president of Star Staffing, based in Petaluma. She also writes the Business Journal column Smartt Principles (nbbj.news/smarttprinciples). This article was originally published in Inc. magazine.

To recap quickly, transferable skills include self-motivation, written and verbal communication skills, listening, critical thinking, teamwork and delegation, and basic technical skills, among others. I will explore cultivating transformable skills through different job positions and strategies for talking about them, to make them work for you.

In short, these skills transfer from job to job and task to task, with little or no need for retraining or translation. One of the strange things about transferable skills is how hard they can be to both see and evaluate. Here are some guidelines for talking about your transferable skills in ways that elevate you to the top of the candidate list.

According to Career Builder, one of the strongest moves you can make is to avoid using jargon or buzzwords. This might seem counterintuitive, but the simpler language you use, the better you’ll be understood. Remember that terms don’t translate from industry to industry, even when skills do: work on finding ways to describe what you do without sounding like you’re speaking a different language.

Consider how your resume is built. Some industry experts warn against using an “objectives” section at the beginning of a resume, suggesting it isn’t the best way to introduce yourself; others consider this section essential. Yet other experts think it’s much better to include a skills list instead of your “objectives” section. If you’ve got plenty of room on your resume, consider including both. If you don’t, evaluate which type of section better describes your actual portable skills.

Manage your personal brand, online, on paper, and in the interview. This is more important than ever, as economic challenges deepen and shift, and as technology continues to change our relationships with the world. It’s not just a matter of making sure to keep your Friday night shenanigans pictures to a minimum, either.

Your personal brand should do a good job of portraying you honestly, including your interests outside of your profession. Team dynamics are as essential to a flourishing business as market control, and if your potential employer can see several areas where your interests intersect with their team, you’ll be visibly a better match than if you had nothing at all to talk about.

Also, make sure your online presence is consistent, and make sure there’s relevant material about your line of work. If you’re changing career trajectories, this is even more important: transferable skills will shine across industry changes.

Lastly, remember to show how adaptable you are. Showing how you’ve adapted in previous roles and in unforeseen circumstances will speak volumes about what you’re capable of, and will help cement your transferable skills.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of talking easily about your transferable skills, you’ll likely begin to see new skills in this light as well.

Smartt Principles

Nicole Smartt Serres is an author as well as president of Star Staffing, based in Petaluma. She also writes the Business Journal column Smartt Principles (nbbj.news/smarttprinciples). This article was originally published in Inc. magazine.

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