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What are transferable skills – and how can I use them?
By Amy Chambers

Amy Chambers was helped in her research for this article by the RBS Insurance careers website, insurance jobs with Direct Line Group. If you’re interested in an exciting range of insurance jobs then visit their website today.

‘Transferable skill’ is self-explanatory phrase, really: it’s any ability you’ve developed in your education or working life that will be useful in lots of different job sectors. Usually, it’s used to refer to things which are more about how you work than what you’ve done. Are you a team player? Have you demonstrated initiative? How’s your time management and how motivated are you?

Or, it’s a skill that can be applied in most working environments at some point. Maybe you have a talent for touch-typing, a gift of the gab or a massively productive management style. It doesn’t matter what industry you’ve been applying your talents in, these are skills that are sought after by businesses across the board.

So, it’s the most umbrella-y of all umbrella terms – which is great, because it could prompt you to re-assess your skill set. Maybe the GCSE French qualification you’ve been letting languish or the season you spent managing that small café could be relevant to your CV? Perhaps you’ve worked in a team environment or are brilliant at budgeting? Even if it doesn’t seem immediately useful, each skill you have demonstrates something about your commitment, your outlook and your personality that a recruiter might find interesting.

That said, one of the biggest bugbears of recruiters is non-specific CVs; it’s no good popping ‘excellent at French’ or ‘friendly with customers’ on your application if a) you’ve got no evidence or examples of when your skill has been applied effectively or b) you’re not making it pertinent to the role you’re applying for. Even if they let it slide on your CV, you’ll need solid examples of your skills when it comes to interview.

For instance, it’s not enough to say “I’m a great communicator.” Instead, think of a role you’ve held where you’ve needed to negotiate between two parties, express your views or present to a group. Maybe you gave constructive feedback, which prompted change in the way things were run? By using situations and evidence, you’re fleshing out this empty phrase to mean something to the recruiter; you’re showing exactly what it means to be a great communicator.

And you shouldn’t stop pushing yourself just because you’ve found work – look at ways you can improve and expand what you’re good at. Rob Lowe is an Outplacement Consultant at RBS Insurance and he says developing transferable skills should be constantly developed: "Our staff regularly get involved in supporting projects in addition to their day to day responsibilities. It gives them the universally useful skill of understanding the project management cycle, working with others and working to targets." These are the things that might give you the edge you need to progress within a company.

Don’t neglect your out-of-work pursuits, either, because that yoga class or shopping for a bargain could come in handy; you never know, one day you might need to stay calm in a stressful situation or have to find the most cost-effective supplier. Transferable skills are all about broadening your abilities and, of course, broadening your perspective – so you can clearly see what it is that makes you an asset to any workplace.