The Role of Transferable Skills in Career Planning

Transferable skills (or competencies) are skills you have acquired from past experiences that are transferable to a different type of career, industry or environment.

Transferable skills may have been developed in many different areas — from your past work experience, academic endeavors, volunteer activities, or in various avocational settings which may include hobbies, clubs, community organizations, associations, etc.

In order to better understand transferable skills, let's look at skills in general. Skills are the building blocks of a job and ultimately a career, and can be divided into the following three areas:

Skills with Things
Some examples of skills with things include using or working with office equipment, computers, software, tools, instruments, machinery, vehicles, heavy equipment, materials, supplies, buildings, furniture, jewelry, clothing, food, animals, and plants.
Skills with Information or Data
Some examples of skills with information or data include planning, researching, developing policies or procedures, keeping records, organizing information, creating, designing, programming, compiling data, calculating, editing, filing, copying, prioritizing, and classifying types of information or data.
Skills with People
Some examples of skills with people include the types of people with whom you interacted, such as customers, vendors, patients, students, faculty, coworkers, colleagues, (and whether as individuals, groups or teams); and the nature of your interaction with people, such as consulting, negotiating, selling, serving, informing, entertaining, counseling, interviewing, coordinating, motivating, or training.

A skill also typically consists of two parts:

  1. A verb indicating an action
  2. A noun representing: a) Things with which you worked, b) Data or Information with which you worked, or c) People with whom you interacted

For example, a skill with information is "writing lesson plans for a secondary (high school) Biology class." "Writing" is the verb, and "lesson plans" is the noun in this skill example.

The verb is the most transferable part of the skill and the noun is the least transferable part of the skill. Directly related to the transferability of skills is the degree of change of environment in which the skill is used.

For example, if we wanted to transfer "writing lesson plans for a secondary Biology class" to another environment — say out of education altogether — "writing" is the most transferable portion of this skill. In this case writing may be transferable to writing reports, presentations, or proposals in a business environment.

In career planning, it is important to identify skills you already have, and to determine if you have an interest in using that skill in a new occupation.

Identifying your transferrable skills can be accomplished with a Skills Inventory designed to help you discover and prioritize the various skills you have acquired, ranking them from the skills you enjoy the most through the skills you enjoy the least. Skills are the building blocks of a job and ultimately a career.

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