Transferable Skills: Selling the Skills You Didn’t Know You Had


Simply put, they are skills you have acquired during any activity in your life—jobs, schooling, projects, parenting, hobbies, sports, virtually anything—that are transferable and applicable to what you want to do in your next job. Although you may not have done exactly the same job as the one you are applying for, you may have acquired the transferable skills to successfully perform the job. As someone that either has no work experience or not worked in a while, this concept is very important to consider when putting together resumes and cover letters, introducing yourself to employers. As a job seeker, you must understand the nature of the work and then review all of your prior experiences to pull out transferable skills to demonstrate your ability to do the job.


The first step in identifying transferable skills is to understand the skills required of the job. Three excellent resources exist to assist this process. The National Occupational Classification (NOC) contains descriptions of 520 occupational groups and includes over 30,000 occupational titles. The NOC provides detailed descriptions of main duties and employment requirements for each occupation. The NOC can be found in print form in libraries and other resource centers or online.

The list of “Essential Skills” compiled by the the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills was developed to provide information on all workplace essential skills and how they are used within various occupations. For each occupation key essential skills are highlighted followed by how other essential workplace skills are also utilized. This resource is extremely useful to understand the skills required for individual jobs and is invaluable in identifying transferable skills and building resumes, cover letters, and employer introductions.

WorkBC provides a comprehensive description of more than 500 occupations as they relate directly to the BC labour market. Information included within this resource: the Nature of the Work, Main Duties, Related Occupations, Education and Training, Working Conditions, Salary Information, and Employment Prospects. It was developed for individuals interested in changing careers or re-entering the labour market.


Once you have a clear sense of the job skills required, the second step is to compile a list of the skills you have acquired. Consider everything you have done—jobs, schooling, traveling, projects, parenting, hobbies, sports etc. Keep this list and add to it as you acquire further skills. During your job search you will refer to this list often.


Using the information gathered from the three resources cited above, identify what applicable transferable skills you have. Use these transferable skills to build your resume, write cover letters and introduce yourself to employers. Don’t forget to customize your resume and letter to meet the requirements of every job you apply for.

Remember, it is likely you have many of the skills employers are looking for even if you have never done the job before. The most important job search tool is the ability to sell yourself and all of your skills.

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