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Transferable Skills for Post-Secondary Students

If you are a post-secondary student working toward a general degree such as a bachelor of arts or bachelor of science, or if you have completed your degree, you have important skills employers need.

Many of the skills you developed through your education are transferable to a work environment. You may have developed additional transferable skills through extracurricular activities such as students’ council or volunteer activities such as at the campus food bank.

This tip will help you to understand the transferable skills that employers are looking for, identify your own transferable skills and learn how to market your transferable skills to potential employers.

Understand what transferable skills employers are looking for

Transferable skills are skills you may have acquired through your education, volunteer activities or part-time work that can be applied to other work or volunteer positions. They are skills employers are looking for and will help you throughout your career. These skills include:

  • Communication. You understand information presented in different forms (words, graphs, statistical tables, multimedia) and can develop information for those same formats. You know how to listen, ask questions and find answers. You can easily get your ideas across to others through writing or presentations.
  • Adaptability. You can work independently or as part of a team. You learn from your mistakes and accept feedback. You can prioritize tasks and adapt to changing organizational priorities.
  • Problem solving. You can identify problems and their causes. You can determine possible solutions. You understand how to implement a solution and evaluate whether it has improved the situation.
  • Leadership. You know how to plan and manage your time to achieve goals. You can work with minimal supervision. You take responsibility for individual and group actions. You believe in the importance of teamwork and contributing to your community.

Find more transferable skills in the Employability Skills 2000+ checklist.

Identify your own transferable skills

Remember, many of the skills you have learned at school, on the job or through volunteer experience can apply to a new job.

Follow these steps to identify your transferable skills:

  • Review your education, work and volunteer experience, making sure to highlight any group work you have done. Make a list of the transferable skills you used. If you need help, try the Skills Sampler activity in Assessing You 
  • Think about how each skill could be used in a work environment. Try stating that skill in a way that will appeal to an employer
  • Use the Employability Skills 2000+ checklist to help you understand how employers may expect you to apply each type of transferable skill.

Here are 3 examples to guide you:

  1. During your post-secondary education, you might have conducted original researchand learned how to question your sources. Your writing and presentation skills improved. You could apply these skills to researching and writing policies and proposals.
  2. Working on group projects for class may have helped you learn how to manage your time effectively and multi-task. You had to identify problems quickly andcommunicate with your classmates. These skills will help you process information for employers and keep you on task with multiple assignments.
  3. Volunteering on campus with the peer support network in your spare time gave you an understanding of how to address people’s needs, lead activities and solve complex problems. You can demonstrate to employers that you know how to manage yourself and adapt to a changing work environment.

Market your transferable skills to potential employers

Once you identify your transferable skills, your next step will be to look for work where you can apply the skills you already have.

When you apply for a job, update your resumé and cover letter with appropriate transferable skills and outline how those skills would apply to this position. Make it easy for employers to see the skills you will bring to a position. Focus on your strongest skills and the skills most likely to interest the employers you’re targeting.

The skills employers are looking for

As a recent graduate or a post-secondary student working toward a general degree, you have important skills employers need. By identifying and highlighting the skills that are most relevant to particular jobs, you can impress potential employers.

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