The skills you have become employability skills – e.g. time management – when they are of interest to most of the organisations that you are applying to. And when they are of particular value to an individual recruiter – either an employer or Uni – they are transferable because you will have acquired them in one situation and are now applying them to a new opportunity.

Imagine you have a have a giant sack full of all the skills that you have accumulated. If you take out the relevant skills and put them into – hypothetically speaking – a briefcase to carry to your interview, those in the case will be portable and transferable because you are taking them to show an interviewer who is interested in them. But how do you know which ones to take with you …?

Skills reminder

There are different names given to the core groups of skills in your skills sack, but most can be categorised under one of the following three headings:

Soft skills – These are your people skills, but can also include any inherent skills in which you naturally shine. Key words to describe your people skills might include communication, persuasion, relationship-building, leadership. Whereas your inherent soft skills could include creative, analytical, self-motivated and highly organised.

Hard skills – These skills can be learnt. They may come easier if you have a natural talent, but essentially you can acquire them. Examples include driving, public speaking, repair maintenance, and playing a musical instrument.

Employability skills – These are valued widely by employers and are extremely useful in the workplace. They are job-related skills which can include a few hard skills – notably IT skills – but are mostly taken from your soft skills. Examples include self-motivation, ability to follow rules, time-management and being punctual.

Ensuring that your skills are relevant

Transferable skills can be matched to vacancies – The way an advert is worded will give you plenty of ideas on which skills the recruiter is looking for. Take a highlighter as you go through the ad and identify the key words which you can ideally match to the skills in your skills sack. They could be looking for “someone who is enthusiastic, confident, and likes working with people”, for example. Check your own skills to see how many of these you have got: the more you can match with, the more suited you are to the role and the higher the chances of your success in applying and interview.

Transferable skills can be matched to brand values – Take a look also at the employer or Uni that you are applying to – how do they describe themselves? Research them thoroughly and – again with a highlighter – trawl through the text for examples that you can try to match with. It might say, for example, “We are a local, family firm and are proud of the work that we do to help the community.” If you can show that you have perhaps been a volunteer and worked in your local community, you will have relevant skills and a better chance of securing the position.

Ensure you have lots to choose from – Aim to have a huge sack full of skills to start with. The key, is to then ensure that you only pick out those which are relevant to the recruiter when you apply for any academic or workplace opportunity. Having a lot of skills in the first place makes all the difference because you are more likely to be able to find the right ones to match to the skills they are looking for.

Ensure you know where to get more if needed – Once you start trying to match your skills to those the employer or Uni are looking for, you will soon realise where your skills gaps are. It’s tempting to assume you don’t have the missing skills, however it may be that you have them already and simply don’t realise it. Reflecting on a challenge that you have faced and how you overcame it, will help you to identify the skills you have. And to identify more skills like this through challenges and situations, there are techniques in our interview tips blog here –

Another way to get more skills if you need them – If you still cannot easily match your skills or identify any existing skills from anywhere else, you can either apply anyway and take a chance – or find a way to acquire the missing skills. It may be too late for the particular job opportunity or degree course application you are looking at now, but there will be others and you’ll be well-equipped next time. To get the missing skills, remember it is far easier to learn a hard skill such as a foreign language or IT skills, than to try to develop soft skills such as becoming creative or a good listener or patient.

Consider if you are applying for the right opportunity – If you don’t have (m)any skills in your skills sack that you can easily match to the advert or brand values, you may not want to spend too much time trying to gain them. Pause for a minute and reflect on how realistic it is for you to apply for the course or for the role in the first place.

And finally …

To ensure that your skills are relevant, portable and transferable, you’ll need to start with a sack full of existing skills – your basic CV – and ideally understand which of those skills are Soft, which are Hard and which are Employability skills.

When you spot something that you want to apply for, simply pull out of the sack the specific skills that match to those in the advert or description of the employer or Uni. The skills you’ve matched up are of value to the person considering your application and are therefore relevant, portable and transferable.

To have a sack full of skills, reflect on everything that you have done and every challenge that you have faced. If there are still gaps in the skills you have, perhaps question whether you are applying for something which isn’t really right for you – or, if it is, do you need to simply go away this time and learn the missing skill to strengthen your application on a future occasion? It’s Your Future – Let’s Get It Started!

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