• Lynn Miner-Rosen

Transferable Skills: Paving Your Path Towards A Better Career

As the summer approaches high school students, college students and their parents ask me what they can do during the summer to improve skills that will help them find a job in the future. One advice I offer is to do things that improve your TRANSFERABLE SKILLS. But, many students and parents do not know what Transferable skills are or why they are important. Transferable skills can be particularly challenging and important for students with ADHD, Executive Functioning challenges, learning disabilities or Asperger’s/ASD.


Transferable skills, also known as soft skills, are a specific set of skills that don’t belong to a particular occupation; they are general skills that can be adapted between jobs, departments and industries (hence the name). All of us have #transferableskills, even if we have limited (or even no) work experience. Building these skills by taking classes and through experience greatly expands your career options. Employers often value transferable skills over good grades because they can be used in so many ways in the workplace.

It is very important that you emphasize your transferable skills throughout your resume, job application and during your interview. These skills can go a long way to persuading a potential employer that you are the perfect fit for their company, even if you don’t necessarily have the experience.

Students, with or without learning differences, who start their college education knowing about transferable skills are better equipped to get the most out of class activities like small groups, presentations and research. Transferable skills are things you learn throughout your life but you can start this summer adding to your list of transferable skills.

Start now…don’t wait until your graduation to enhance your resume and have an edge during job interviews. It is a very good idea to spend your summer working in a part-time job, doing an internship or volunteering to sharpen your transferable skills. #DontWaitUntilYouGraduate

Below are important transferable skills that you should develop to boost your future career aspirations:

1. Communication skills

Good communication is about conveying thoughts and ideas effectively, as well as listening to others and understanding what they are attempting to communicate. An ideal candidate has the ability to articulate their ideas in an organized and concise format. There was a great article in Forbes called 10 Steps To Effective Listening that might be helpful. Another way to improve your communication skills is to practice one-on-one “chit chat” with other people without using your cell phone!

Communication skills include:

  • Speaking effectively and writing clear communication

  • Listening carefully to understand, rather than just waiting your turn to talk.

  • Expressing ideas and feelings constructively

  • Perceiving nonverbal messages and developing rapport with others

2. Leadership and management skills

Effective leadership and management is about directing and motivating others to achieve individual, team and company goals. You can enhance your leadership and management skills with work experience, volunteering, joining clubs and group projects.

Key transferable skills include:

  • Handling details and following through on tasks

  • Managing groups and delegating responsibilities

  • Planning and coordinating tasks

  • Solving problems and managing conflict

  • Making and implementing decisions

  • Motivating, coaching and training others

3. Teamwork and interpersonal skills

These skills are about the contribution you make to groups and the way you relate to and interact with others to achieve a common goal. Again, work experience and group projects are important for this set of skills.

Key transferable skills include:

  • Contributing and encouraging the ideas of others

  • Developing rapport and respecting other opinions

  • Modifying communication to suit the situation

  • Sharing credit and accepting responsibility

  • Accurately perceiving feelings or situations

4. Self-management skills

Self-management is about how you direct your own activities toward the achievement of objectives. Employers are always looking for candidates who can get their job done efficiently and with self-motivation.

Transferable skills in self-management include:

  • Managing time and organizing priorities

  • Setting goals, meeting deadlines and solving problems

  • Working well under pressure and accepting responsibility

  • Ability to get along well with others

  • Self-evaluation and decision-making

5. Research and Planning Skills

Research and planning skills enable you to clearly articulate your needs and formulate a strategy to accomplish specific objectives. Many roles require these skills, and employers look for candidates who are proactive in being able to carry out projects and research effectively.

6. Work Survival and Work Ethics

Work survival and work ethics is about on the job initiative, self- starting, following the company policies and demonstrating a commitment to your work. Employers often complain that new employees and interns are waiting to be told what to do. Demonstrate ways you have taken initiative and achieved positive results. Develop energy and enthusiasm skills.

When school starts again in the fall, think about ways that you can improve or explore transitional skills that will be helpful in getting an interview, a job and doing well on the job. Keep track of the skills you are working on and when you did them.

One way to develop transferable skills is to take classes outside your college major that stretch your horizons. Use your electives wisely - learn a foreign language, pick up a new skill like coding, or take a community-based service learning course. Any of these classes will help develop skills that you can add to your résumé.” This can be both fun and effective if you identify classes and assignments that mirror what you'll do professionally after college. Taking courses that provide opportunities such as these can help build skills that transfer well to the workplace.

It is important to remember that it is never too early to start planning and improving your experiences so that you will make the best job candidate when you graduate college. There is no way to get around it, the job market is very competitive, and students should never assume that a college degree with decent grades is enough. It is NOT and there is no one but YOU that can make it better.

But, you can do it! Start now.