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What Are Transferable Skills, and How Can They Help You?

During your career, you’ll develop transferable skills — skills you can take with you no matter where your career goes.

Transferable skills are the ones you acquire and use at many different workplaces. You may have heard them being called employability skills. They can include skills in teamwork, communication, and problem solving. They can be useful stepping stones in your career.

Follow Chad’s career path as he uses his transferable skills to take him from the controls of a backhoe to the ballet stage:

  • In high school, a knee injury keeps Chad from playing football. The coach asks him to help manage the team instead. Chad successfully organizes a tournament. The coach sees Chad’s organizational skills and asks him to help with grad, too. Chad agrees because he’d like to date Annie. Annie is in charge of decorations. 
  • Chad graduates and gets a construction job. He apprentices as a heavy equipment operator. Chad never does date Annie. He becomes a journeyman operating engineer. He stays on with the company.
  • A year or two later, Chad offers to help organize a charity golf tournament. He learns how to network and he further develops his computer skills.
  • 5 years later, Chad is making good money. But he doesn’t like how the company is managed. He’s thinking of a change. He earns a business certificate by attending a training program part time on weekends. He continues to help organize charity events. He is asked to join the board of a large foundation.
  • Chad decides to start his own construction firm. He approaches a charity event contact, who agrees to invest in it. He uses that money as a down payment on a backhoe. Chad works hard and his business grows. He pays off the backhoe, buys another, and hires a second operator. Work is busy, so he resigns from the foundation board. But he continues to help organize the annual gala auction.
  • At the next gala auction, a friend bids on a joke gift for Chad: a walk-on role in a ballet. Chad accepts the gift good-naturedly. At his costume fitting, he recognizes the costume designer. It's Annie! She has transferred her creative and organizational skills to her career as a designer.

What happens next?

Transferable skills: some of the most powerful change-makers you’ll ever meet!

Chad doesn’t even know what will happen next. But if he looks back at how his career unfolded, he can see how he got to where he is today. There’s a clear path showing how certain skills took him from injured football player to company owner:

  1. First, he acquired organizational skills on his high school football team and grad committee.
  2. At his workplace, he used those skills to help organize charity events.
  3. Someone saw his aptitude and helped him add computer and networking skills.
  4. Thanks to all of these skills, he got a role on a board of directors.
  5. In his role on the board, he acquired management skills. He added to them with a business certificate.

Chad ended up with these skills:

  • Organizing
  • Computer
  • Networking
  • People
  • Management

These skills helped him launch a business.

Chad probably never could have pictured all of this back in high school, when an injury sidelined his football plans. Yet step by step, he developed a solid set of transferable skills. One by one, they created a career path for him.

What transferable skills do you already have? Consider school clubs, sports, volunteer activities, and part-time or summer work. You probably already have more skills than you think! And now that you know what they are, you can start to build more.

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