Beyond Your Major: Building Transferable Skills

As a college student, you’re likely focused on taking classes specific to your major. You’re eager to learn about your chosen career field and ready to master the skills required to find a job after graduation. While this is all extremely important, you should also consider another area called “transferable skills.”

Transferable skills are a versatile set of skills that you can apply to more than one job. These are the skills that add to your marketability as a candidate and help you assimilate from one job to another. So, for example, while you may be studying accounting and sharpening your ability to balance bookkeeping ledgers, a transferable skill could be your ability to problem solve.

Identifying Transferable Skills

Just like your personality, your set of transferable skills will be unique to you. The best part is that you’ve already begun to develop these skills through group project work, volunteer work, leadership positions on campus and even part-time jobs you’ve held.

  • Soft skills – These are the skills that help you relate to, communicate with, influence and inspire other people. Examples include delegating, coaching/mentoring abilities, listening, presentation and cooperation skills, and leadership skills.
  • Analytical skills – These are your problem solving skills. Examples include research abilities, data gathering and analysis skills, needs assessment, creativity and risk analysis skills.
  • Technical skills – These are specific hands-on skills you’ve acquired, like how to use specific computer software programs and electronics, your ability to work with specific machinery or other trade/craft skills.
  • Organizational skills – These skills reflect your planning skills, how you sort data, manage projects, records and tasks. Examples include prioritizing, time management, task management, resource management and coordination.
  • Workplace skills – These skills reflect on your work ethic and workplace character. Examples include integrity, reliability, punctuality, diligence, decision-making ability and teamwork.

Now that you have an idea of what transferable skills are all about, you can start to analyze your own abilities. This Transferable Skills Worksheet can help you build a map of your skills, or you can look for an assessment quiz to further help you. After you’ve identified your skills – or perhaps the skills that you’d like to have – you can begin to develop them by taking on leadership roles on campus. You can also participate in specific training programs like Toastmasters or workshops offered through your campus Career Center.

Marketing Your Skills

Marketing your transferable skills is just as easy as highlighting your career-related skills. One way to spotlight a particular skill is to provide an example in your cover letter. Perhaps there was a time you led a team of volunteers or another time you solved a problem in the kitchen at your summer job– use your cover letter to briefly describe your actions and success. You can also make a list of these examples to use in your conversations during interviews for internships and future jobs.

You can also showcase your transferable skills through your resume. Most people write their resume in a chronological format – listing each job or volunteer opportunity in time order with a brief description about what they did for each position. However, a skills-based or “functional” resume lets you tout your skills first and your job positions second. Using this format, you can easily focus on your skills and experience rather than specific job titles you’ve held.

Whether you’re preparing for a future career as a chef, an accountant or even a musician, your desirability as a candidate will be greatly enhanced by your transferable skills – and inclusion of related skills-based key words on your resume.

In fact, knowing about these skills and understanding how they can expand your future career opportunities is an important step towards building your career. With an eye on all of your skills – both career-specific and transferable – you’ll be able to consider more job opportunities that can lead you towards your dream job.


Trish is a senior communications manager for Sodexo, a world leader in quality of daily life solutions that contribute to the progress of individuals and the performance of organizations. As a member of the marketing and communications team for Sodexo’s Talent Acquisition department since 2010, Trish is an employment expert who aims to educate job candidates about the hiring process, networking opportunities and the culture of Sodexo. A graduate of Marist College (BA – Psychology) and the University of Southern Mississippi (MS – Public Relations), Trish has never been far from the classroom. As a former adjunct professor for the College of Charleston and professional advisor for the college’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter, she enjoys helping students reach for their potential and guide them through the process of preparing for their future careers. A lover of technology and gadgets, cookies, chocolate and baking, Trish spends most of her free time raising two small children and competing with husband to obtain the most stamps in her National Parks Passport book. Feel free to connect with Trish or learn more about careers at Sodexo.

Related posts:

  1. Building Professional Skills Through Leadership Roles on Campus
  2. Soft Skills, Hard Skills, and the Power of Thank You Cards
  3. Transferrable Skills: More than meets the eye

Leave a Reply

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

  • Dan Schawbel

    Dan Schawbel, the founder of the Student Branding Blog, is a world renowned personal branding expert, the international bestselling author of Me 2.0, as well as the publisher of the Personal Branding Blog.

  • Connect With Dan

  • Chelsea Rice

    Chelsea Rice is the editor-in-chief of the Student Branding Blog. She began her work for just before graduating from Boston University, where she studied journalism and minored in international relations.

  • Connect With Chelsea

  • Recognition

    • Recommended resource - The Washington Post
    • "A terrific way for students to learn about branding" - Lindsey Pollak
    • "Worth checking out" - Psychology Today
    • HR World's top 100 management blogs