Last Updated on December 21, 2021

Whether you are an individual job-seeker, a company looking to provide training for your employees (to help them with their career development plan), or a freelance/corporate trainer looking into what training is worth providing people, portable and transferable skills are one vital area to look at.

10 types of transferable skills

Teaching transferable skills to your employees can benefit you as a company as the employees move between roles and positions. Teaching an employee how to deal with difficult people, for example, can help them deal with customers, but also aid them if they move later into a management role and have a team to manage. So what are transferable skills and what such skills are worth providing staff training in? Let’s take a look below.

What are Transferable Skills?

Transferable skills are skills that can be used across different jobs and roles, meaning that they are skills that are very portable and that are valuable in most job roles. These skills, in other words, are core skills that you can take with you, whatever role or job you move to.

Management skills, critical thinking skills, and communications skills are three examples of transferable skills.

As you can imagine, being a good manager, whether you work in retail, in a factory, or in an office, management skills are always important.

Likewise, being a skilled communicator and critical thinker are always important and useful.

Why Are Transferable Skills Important?

Customer service skills

From the definition above, you might already appreciate that transferable skills are incredibly valuable to have on your CV or resume because they act as some proof of your ability to succeed in a given role.

If you are being taken on as a manager in an airport in charge of ten people, the fact that you worked at McDonald’s for two years and successfully managed a team of 8 people already shows that you have management ability and experience.

You have experience in dealing with people, in managing rotas, in hiring staff, and so on.

You might be coming to a new role from a completely different sector but these core skills are just as valuable in your new role.

Transferable skills show that you have portable skills that make you more employable.

What Are the 10 Main Types of Transferable Skills?

There are ten key groups of skills that tend to be valuable no matter what work role you do and these are as follows:

  • Leadership & Management skills
  • Communication skills
  • Listening skills
  • Problem Solving skills
  • Basic I.T and Computer Skills
  • Customer Service skills
  • Empathy Skills
  • Public Speaking skills
  • Team work and collaboration skills
  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Skills

Let’s take a look at each of these types of skills.

1. Leadership & Management Skills

reusable and transferable skills learning

It does not matter what the size or nature of the company or organization that you work for, experience in working as a supervisor, team leader or manager, is a great experience and it deserves to be on your CV or resume.

Getting leadership and management experience can be gained in a wide variety of ways as I mentioned earlier in Mcdonald’s example. Working in a fast food outlet and leading a team of people can lead to any number of other management roles and I have personally seen several people take such a route.

Do whatever you can to get some leadership experience and get it onto that CV/resume!

2. Communication Skills

The ability to communicate well should not be understated, as so many workplace problems that do end up occurring, so often can be traced back to poor communication.

Communication skills can include:

  • intercultural communition (understanding how to manage people from different cultural backgrounds, such as if you are managing a virtual team with employees based in the UK, France, India, and USA, for example)
  • Classic communication skills including how to give and receive feedback.
  • Virtual and Online Communication – a new necessity as many teams now need to be managed virtually

Whilst many transferable skills cross over in that being a good communicator can also be considered a leadership skill, you should attempt, when applying for jobs, to include proof specifically of good communication skills that you have gained in your present or previous roles.

3. Listening Skills

You might have heard, for example, of active listening and this type of skill is so valuable in the workplace.

Active listening is the art of really learning and understanding how to REALLY listen and as a colleague or manager, this is an extremely useful skill.

Being able to listen in the right way helps us to understand:

  • directions, i.e. to do tasks
  • people’s feelings
  • problems others are having at work

You might think that anyone can listen but, in reality, most of us are more concerned with thinking of what we want to say next rather than focusing intently on what the other person is saying.

Listening skills greatly aid the empathy we are able to show in the workplace because when we listen we come across as being more understanding and attentive. I will talk more about empathy skills shortly.

4. Problem Solving Skills

Problem solving at work

Being able to show good problem-solving skills on your cv/resume is another extremely useful portable skill that you will want to consider.

How good are you at finding solutions to problems, i.e. finding ways around issues that may occur?

Can you give specific examples on your resume to show you have been in situations whereby you were able to act on your feet, as it were, and find creative solutions and do so effectively and under pressure?

It is always worth having examples ready to provide of your problem-solving skills, especially for job interviews, where you may verbally be asked this type of question.

Try and think of and write down specific examples of problems that arose in your work (especially in a pressure situation) and how you solved them.

If you are a school-leaver, then use examples from your studies or research or from things such as volunteer work.

5. Basic IT and Computer Skills

I think you will agree that IT and computer skills are becoming increasingly necessary in just about every type of work.

Even roles that are manual these days often still require some form of technology to be used, such as for stock-taking, or for some other data collection and documentation.

If you are from Generation Z (born after 1995) (read about managing generational diversity in the workplace here), you will have grown up familiar with smartphones, iPads, and others computing devices.

If you have very little experience in respect of IT and computing skills, there are numerous courses you can do online, via watching YouTube videos, or by doing a course at a local college.

6. Customer Service Skills

Customer service

Whether you are working B2B (Business to Business) or if you deal with front-facing customers (face to face), the ability to deal effectively and positively with customers is essential and a skill.

Do you have experience of working directly with customers?

It might be over the telephone or it might be in person such as over a counter. If you have customer service experience this should be highlighted on your CV or resume.

7. Empathy Skills

Whilst empathy skills have not, in the past, been associated with transferable skills (and would have been lumped in with leadership skills), empathy-related skills are now important in their own right.

Much greater awareness of mental well-being in the workplace exists nowadays and ’empathy’ is central to this understanding.

Being able to relate, listen and show compassion when needed to colleagues and those you might manage and work with is a skill that is invaluable.

8. Public Speaking and Presentation Skills

Public speaking and presentation skills

Public speaking and presentation skills, as you might imagine, are transferable skills that are incredibly useful no matter what job you are in.

You might well have experience that is not work-related that proves your confidence and ability as a public speaker and in doing presentations.

Outside of work, you might also have presented at a conference during your studies? Have you presented for any other reason such as part of volunteer work?

A fantastic way to improve your skills in public speaking is to go to Toastmaster events. Toastmasters offer local clubs in a number of countries and at their events, everyone gets a chance to practice presenting and providing feedback.

No matter how terrified you are of standing up in front of other people, at Toastmasters you will be amongst other people who share your fears but who are equally open to learning and improving.

9. Team Work and Collaboration Skills

Any experience you have that shows off your teamwork and collaboration skills is also useful in other roles.

There are few jobs where we truly work completely alone so team working skills are one of the most essential transferable skills.

If you have the chance at work, volunteering to be part of a committee or board can be one way to gain valuable experience.

Likewise, have you been a part of a successful team that has achieved something at work?

If you are moving into or across to another management role, then you might also want to consider building your skills such as in dealing with difficult people, because collaboration as a manager means being able to successfully manage everyone in your team.

10. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Skills

Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of your own feelings and those of others, manage your feelings, and use your understanding of emotions to create better relationships with other people.

Dr Valeria Lo Iacono

So what experience do you have in managing other people when it comes to dealing with their emotional well-being and wellness?

Take a look at the emotional intelligence page under the ‘What Are the Benefits of Emotional Intelligence at Work?’ and you will see a bullet point list of EQ (Emotional Intelligence) skills. Showing experience of these related skills can help you to prove your EQ.

Transferable Skills vs Soft Skills

Transferable skills and soft skills are different but they can overlap. The key is that transferable skills can include both hard and soft skills.

Hard skills are normally more measurable, i.e. more quantifiable. So having a certain standard ability in a foreign language could be considered a hard skill (as opposed to a soft skill).

Language skills, when they aid intercultural communication, can be said to be transferable skills in that your skills might be useful in other roles for other companies.

Examples of Transferable Skills

Whilst I gave a couple of examples in the definition of transferable skills at the start of this post, let’s look at some further examples.

  • In your previous company you volunteered and were in charge of a team of six people who helped with employee welfare.
  • You have a lot of experience presenting to large numbers of people because you previously worked as a corporate trainer.
  • As someone who worked as a counsellor in one job, your had to spend a lot of time listening to people and you have excellent listening skills. You have also from this proof of empathy skills.
  • You have been managing a virtual team of 10 people and these people are based in 7 different countries worldwide and from very different cultures. As a team, you have achieved great results. In terms of transferable skills in this example, you have proof of team work and intercultural communication skills.
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Dr Valeria (Lo Iacono) Symonds

Valeria has been involved with education for over 16 years. She has taught in the UK at the University of Bath and Cardiff Metropolitan University (where she got her PhD), in addition to working as a researcher at Exeter University. Valeria additionally has several years of experience of also working with Ofsted and Cardiff University in management roles & is she is the founder of Symonds Training.