What is a Transferable Skill?

The things we learn doing one thing can sometimes be used in other places, too.  A transferable skill is a skill that’s useful in a job even though it might not be to do with the job at first.

Let’s say you wanted to get a job in a supermarket and you don’t have any work experience.  You might think that you don’t have the skills to do this kind of job, but that might not be true!  Skills we pick up that are useful in work are called transferable skills, and they don’t have to come from working.

Example:

Once a week you play 5-a-side football with your friends in a league.  This might just seem like a bit of fun with your mates, but you’re using skills here that are useful in a job without even knowing it:

  • You have to arrive on time, or your team might lose their spot and not be able to play that week.  You turn up on time and you know why it’s important to be on time
  • You wear the right kit to the matches, so you don’t end up on the wrong team.  You can follow a dress-code
  • Everyone plays a position in the team, so you’re not all running around not knowing what to do.  You know why it’s important to work as a team

So, if you were going to an interview for the supermarket job, you can talk about timekeeping, uniform, and teamwork, just from playing football with your mates once a week.  These are all transferable skills, and you can probably think of some more to do with other sports that you might play.  Some other great places for transferable skills if you’re just about to leave school are:

  • Taking part in an after-school club
  • Being part of a group like scouts or cadets
  • Volunteering
  • Playing music in a band (or by yourself)

Depending on your experience and the kind of job you’re applying for, you might put your transferable skills on your CV or cover letter

A transferable skill isn’t just for hobbies and things outside of work

Once you’re in a job or have some work experience you’ll be learning new skills to do with that job.  We might learn about stock rotation if we’re working at the supermarket, for example.  These skills are transferable in the same way if we look at them outside of the job.  Rotating stock needs you to have good attention to detail, so even though another job might not want us to rotate stock we can still use those skills in the future.