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One of the top questions I get asked is about transferable
skills and how to identify them. This is
of interest to anyone that wants to make any kind of change in their
career. Also of interest, and another
common question, is what skills we need to be developing for our future career
goals or the new world of work.
A good definition of transferable skills is those skills
that you already possess that you can take with you and apply to a new kind of
career. We panic about transferable
skills because we tend to think about our job-specific skills as all important
(take a look at my article on sunk cost fallacy).
Let’s say that you want to move out of HR. You focus on the HR-specific elements of the
role like knowledge of employment law, knowledge of specific HR software,
experience of how to conduct a disciplinary procedure, etc. You’ll notice here that I haven’t once
mentioned skills. I’ve mentioned
knowledge and experience. So, what is a
There is a plethora of “transferable skills lists” on the
internet. What is common between them is
that they tend to consist of soft skills rather than hard skills. Examples are: teamwork, leadership, personal
motivation, organisation, time management, listening, writing, verbal
communication, research and analytical skills, numeracy, personal development,
general IT skills.
I don’t know about you, but I notice three things about a
list like this:
That’s right! It is
likely the things that are innate within us that are the valuable, transferable
elements of ourselves. Things we take
with us like: rapport building, listening, storytelling, creativity, etc.
Sitting alongside this idea of transferable skills is the
requirement for new skills that will be required in the future. The fear factor for many here is that they
will all be technology skills. Not
so. I took great heart from this article from the World Economic Forum.
Whilst the WEF state that 50% of workers will need
upskilling by 2025, due to the “double-disruption” of COVID-19 and increasing
automation, there is good news in terms of which will be the most required
In the Top 10 skills for 2025, half of them are problem
solving skills, two of them are self-management skills, one is interpersonal
and (only) two are about technology use and development.
What is more, when you read the list you will probably
already have a good few of these skills and could quite quickly upskill the
others. In fact, Coursera (an online
learning platform) says that some of these skills can be acquired in 1 – 2 months
and pretty much all of them can be acquired within 5 months.
The data from Coursera and LinkedIn suggest that 94% of
employers now expect people to acquire these new skills on the job. So, you probably won’t even have to invest in
the learning yourself.
What to do now
I am sure that you will now have a good list of skills and a
mini-learning plan for yourself. Remember, nothing is ever wasted; you have so much to bring; you just
need to stop and remind yourself every now and again.
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