Transferable Skills: What They Are, How to Market Them, and Why Recruiters Should Care

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You’ve spent a considerable amount of time in the same industry, and now you’d like to make a change. You want to move into another field — but you’re not sure if any employer in this new industry would see you as qualified and relevant.

It’s a genuine concern, but the good news is a career change can be made. The key is identifying and marketing your transferable skills.

A Note for Recruiters: Transferable Skills Are More Valuable Than You Might Think

With more and more employers seeking those “holy grail” candidates who are skilled, able to deliver results immediately, and genuinely engaged at work, perhaps it’s time for more recruiters to take note of the transferable skill sets of career-changing candidates.

When companies are open-minded about their hiring and willing to bring aboard employees from other industries, they have the benefit of cross-pollination. These employees can bring new ideas and approaches used in other industries, which can then be adapted to enhance the business.

Career-changing candidates often also turn out to be highly engaged. These motivated professionals have done some serious introspection to determine their new direction in the employment market. They’re excited about and committed to delivering value in a new field — to your company’s benefit.

While the proceeding tips are meant to help candidates market their transferable skills, recruiters and employers should also take note: If you know what to look for, you can better understand the valuable skills candidates can bring to your organization.

Understanding and Advertising Your Transferable Skills

In short, transferable skills are the skills an employee uses every day that are not unique to their present business or industry — e.g., accounting, sales, project management, etc. While you may be applying your skills in your current industry and would therefore have some specialized knowledge unique to that industry, the basic principles, processes, and techniques you use would be similar in almost any another work environment.

But identifying transferable skills is only the first step. You’ll also need to successfully showcase those skills to prospective employers in your new career path. Some of the most effective ways to spotlight your transferable skills include incorporating them into your resume’s professional summary, position titles, and accomplishments. For example:

Professional Summary

Rather than, “Senior-level, financial services project director seeking to bring expertise to a new industry.”

Try, “Hands-on senior project manager with extensive experience in the financial services and healthcare industries.”

Position Titles

Rather than, “Director – Bank Partnerships and Funding Strategy.”

Try, “Director – Partners Program Management.”


Rather than, “Maintained an active portfolio of 600 prospects and donors for 20 clients that included nonprofits, foundations, and hospitals.”

Try, “Maintained an active database of 20 client organizations. Managed both one-time events and long-term programs with a consistently high client-satisfaction rating.”

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Key Points to Remember

1. Focus on What You Did and the Results You Achieved

When you focus on what you did and what you accomplished more than on the environment in which you did it, you avoid pigeonholing yourself. Instead, you keep the attention on the skills and value you have to offer to the organization. If you can bring in new clients and effectively build relationships in one industry setting, odds are you can do the same in a different, related industry setting.

2. Use Terminology Your New Audience Uses

You’ll want to rid your resume, cover letter, and other communications of any acronyms, jargon, and specialized terms exclusive to your current industry. Translate that language into terms that will be more relatable to your new target audience.

For example, if you’re coming from banking or government and your title includes “officer,” employers in industries like insurance or tech may have a hard time understanding your level of experience. Figure out what the appropriate term would be in the business environments you’re now targeting — e.g., “manager,” “senior manager,” “director,” “vice president,” etc.

The idea isn’t to be misleading. Rather, the goal is to translate your work experience into comparable terms people in your desired industry will find meaningful.

3. Be Consistent in Your Marketing

Transferable skills aren’t only for your resume. As you tweak your resume to focus on your transferable skills, remember to do the same for your LinkedIn profile, cover letter, and your 30-second elevator pitch.

4. Transferable Skills May Not Be Enough to Get You the Job on Their Own

Articulating your transferable skills can get employers to consider you a relevant candidate, but they may not be all you need to actually land the role. For example, if the job description states candidates need to have familiarity with the industry, you may need to do some extensive research. Be prepare to communicate how you have gained familiarity with this — or a similar — industry. You can also approach this by discussing your plan for getting up to speed quickly in the new business environment.

In general, the key is to remember that you’re competing against other people who already have experience in the industry. Creativity and initiative are must-haves.

Bonnie Petrovich, MEd, CPC, is vice president and senior career consultant at Keystone Partners.

By Bonnie Petrovich