What are Transferable Skills and How To Identify Them

Remote Job Hunting

Transferable skills are like gold for remote job seekers and employers alike. We break down what they are, how to find them, and where to use them now:

Do you keep an updated list of your transferable skills?

Not quite sure what transferable skills are?

You’re not alone. Remote job seekers pick up loads of these in their lives, but they often have no idea just how valuable transferable skills are to their careers.

So the buck stops here today.

You’ll learn all the ins and outs of transferable skills in this guide, including how to find them and leverage them for greatness, whether you’re on a remote job search or keeping your career goals on track.

Looking for a remote job in 2024? Check out the ultimate guide to landing a remote job in 2024 here.

Let’s start with the fundamentals: 

What are Transferable Skills?

Transferable skills are talents and abilities you can use throughout your work life, across different roles and various career paths. They’re also called “portable skills” because you can take them with you (i.e., “transfer” them) when you transition to new employers or a completely new field.

Since they’re neither job-specific nor employer-bound, transferable skills are universally sought after by remote hiring teams in every industry.

What are Some Examples of Transferable Skills?

You typically only use job-specific skills in a handful of roles. The ability to code iOS apps, create high-converting Instagram ads, or fix security vulnerabilities all fall under this umbrella. 

On the other hand, the best transferable skill examples include:

As you can see, if you have any of these skills, you’ve likely used or improved them in almost every job you’ve had and will continue to do so.

How Do You Get Transferable Skills?

You can pick up transferable skills almost anywhere and hone them throughout your career and life experiences. These can manifest during your:

  • Schooling and education
  • Internships
  • Employment and job hopping
  • Freelance gigs
  • Volunteer experiences
  • Time spent on hobbies and interests

Your life and career experiences give you a unique set of transferable skills, but you can teach yourself many more to add to your toolbelt. The more you have, the better, as you’ll see next.

3 Reasons To Keep an Updated List of Your Transferable Skills On Deck

It’s worth your time to identify and keep an updated list of your transferable skills handy. Then you won’t have to take a deep dive into your entire life and career history every time you need to come up with a few on the fly.

When expertly highlighted, transferable skills can help you:

1. Stand Out To Remote Hiring Teams

With competition fiercer for the best remote positions, you need to take every opportunity to gain a leg up on your competition. Adding relevant skills to your job search documents is one of the best ways to beat applicant tracking systems and move on to the interview round.

Want to know a secret? Most remote hiring teams actually favor candidates with transferable skills over ultra job-specific talents because they:

Make an excellent first impression. Depending on your transferable skills, you might show hiring teams that you’re eager to take on new challenges, adaptable and versatile, or a team player. 

These all make a stellar first impression and highlight that you’ll be a valuable asset to the organization. Some companies even prioritize transferable skills over those that can easily be learned on the job.

Show you can grow with an organization. Rather than getting stuck in one role, transferable skills demonstrate that you have the ability to transcend your job description and grow with a company. You can put your various skills to use up the ladder or across departments and thrive (to your benefit and your employer’s).

Prove you can hit the ground running. Having a few key transferable skills means future employers don’t have to spend the time or resources training you on those. You can start meaningfully contributing to the company on day one rather than playing catch up.

2. Make a New Career Change Possible

If you’re switching to a new career, industry, or role, you can land that remote job without any experience if you prove you’re capable of acing all the required duties and responsibilities.

For example, you might not have needed strong organizational skills in your last position. But running your part-time tutoring gig revealed that you’re totally capable of keeping a tidy virtual workspace, setting deadlines, and holding people accountable. 

Now you can position this new skill set as proof that you can handle a Project Manager role, even though you’ve never officially been one.

3. Stretch Experience If You’re Lacking It

Recent grads, take note: you don’t need to possess every skill you see in a job ad to apply for that role. Think of these more like a wishlist employers are hoping for in candidates.

The transferable skills you gain from part-time babysitting gigs, freelance graphic designing, or online courses still count and are equally valuable. You might make the perfect company culture fit for an employer who sees all the potential you bring to the table.

Everyone has something outstanding to highlight for remote hiring teams. The trick is finding and leveraging yours.

So How Can You Identify Transferable Skills?

There are two ways to start gathering and refining your list of transferable skills (and they’re both super easy!).

First, Go Through Your Resume and All Your Experience

In this free workshop from our Async Job Fair in March 2022, Asim Baksh from Sherpa shared the best tips for applying for remote jobs. Asim touched on both sellable and transferable skills, saying that you should focus less on the actual job duties on your resume and more on how you did those and what you learned.

Start with a blank page. Try to list all the skills you have off the top of your head. Think about your strengths and things team leaders and coworkers praise you for or say you’re good at. Consider what you picked up through your education and training.

Now, grab a copy of your most recent resume. Try to break down each work experience, academic pursuit, hobby, internship, etc., into a few impactful keywords to describe what you learned and walked away with.

Maybe you stepped up to the leadership plate. How did you motivate others to complete their goals? What did you use to keep projects running smoothly? 

Did you have to master new project management or asynchronous communication tools? Try a new style of sprints? Work with cross-cultural teams in different time zones?

These proficiencies and transferable skills can be used to market yourself and explain what your unique skill set can do for a potential employer. So add them to your list and keep going.

Note: Be honest with yourself. Don’t try to overstretch your skills and abilities, as hiring teams will see right through that. If you’re going to claim a skill, you better have a concrete example of when you put it to work and the results you achieved. Hiring teams will ask about these during virtual interviews, and you’ll need to explain yourself well.

Read Job Descriptions for Roles You Want (+ Look For Our New Skills Tags!)

Learn how to decode the secret language of remote job descriptions, and you’ll know exactly which skills remote employers are looking for. Show them you have those, and you’ll boost your chances of landing an interview. 

To do this:

Print or copy/paste the job ad into a blank document. When you see a remote role you’re interested in, highlight all the skills the company mentioned. Go through your list of transferable skills, then highlight all the relevant ones that match.

These are the skills you’ll want to focus on adding to your resume, cover letter, and other strategic places to prove you’re the perfect person for the role.

Psst! Have you seen our new skills tags? Remote companies posting jobs on We Work Remotely can now add skills tags to their ads. So job seekers can click on any skill to see all remote jobs tagged with it, essentially filtering roles across categories by what you may qualify for.

With just a few clicks, you’ll be able to check out all the opportunities that may be relevant to your unique skill set in one place. 

Now that you have a list of transferable skills, let’s talk about what to do with them.

How To Use Transferable Skills Like a Pro

Transferable skills show off why you’re a top, in-demand candidate. Focus on the right ones, and hiring teams will be eager to snatch you up for their teams.

So try to weave your transferable skills throughout your:

Though you may have a giant list of extraordinary skills, only spotlight the most relevant ones each company is looking for. That’s how you tailor your cover letter and resume to your dream remote job.

And always make sure you have specific examples to support these skills and explain them if hiring teams ask.

Time To Make Your List of Transferable Skills!

Follow the tips in this guide, and you may be pleasantly surprised by how many sought-after abilities you can add to your transferable skills list.

Finding remote companies looking for your talent, and knowing which keywords to include on your resume and cover letter to get noticed, are some of the hardest parts of landing a remote job. On the plus side, you now know a few tricks to overcome these hurdles and land your dream role.

Check out the We Work Remotely job board to filter roles by the fantastic transferable skills you discover! 

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