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By Rebecca Guy 12 Dec, 2017

Transferable skills refer to the strengths and attributes a candidate has, that are not role-specific but are valuable for the diverse ways they can be used across different roles, departments and industries. Transferable skills are also known as portable or soft skills and differ from, what are known as, hard skills, because soft skills can be developed outside of a professional environment and are just as valuable in one industry, as the next. Hard skills however, are more likely to be developed for the purpose of work and generally do not transfer well into other roles.

For example: a hard skill may be having specialist knowledge of wildlife photography but having excellent soft skills in communication with customers and staff would just as relevant in a retail store or restaurant as a photography studio. The photographer in this example, may have developed those excellent communication skills over a few years, different jobs or even a volunteering position.

Because of the fluid nature of transferable skills, it is possible to see that they are particularly helpful for candidates who do not have much work experience, or are switching careers. Graduates, especially, increasingly need to prove they are ready for work after university but face problems when they have a degree but no work experience. For someone who is switching from one career to the next, your valuable transferable skills might help you get your foot in the door if you can prove you are an asset, despite a lack of the specific hard skills required for the role.

Employers look for both hard skills and soft skills in a potential employee and a CV is the perfect starting point to demonstrate that you, as a candidate, are proficient in both types of skills. Most job descriptions will list the soft skills they employer would like to see so next it is just down to the candidate to prove they’ve got them.

Transferable skills really benefit from the STAR treatment (Situation, Task, Action and Result), as they demonstrate your skills best when you can explain a bit about the scenario in which you used the skills, but because they may not be exactly relevant to the role you’re applying to, explaining the results of your actions helps cement your skills.

In this blog series, we’re going to look at 7 of the most important transferable skills and provide some examples of how to get them, and how they can be used in different jobs.

  • Teamwork
  • Time Management and Organisation
  • Communication and Interpersonal Skills
  • Problem Solving and Initiative
  • Customer Service
  • Information Technology
  • Leadership

Today we’ll be looking at….

Leadership

When you think of leadership, do you think that only team leaders, managers and other senior staff need those skills? Then you may be surprised that leadership skills are a highly sought after quality of any employee, whether they will be going into a role as an actual leader, or not. As this series has been focused on transferable skills, this post will look at the transferable elements of leadership skills for employees who are not applying for management roles, as there are some differences.

For example, employers may want to know if you have experience with people management, coaching, line managing, disciplinaries and monitoring staff absences and behaviour if you were applying for a team leader or supervisor type role. However, for a more junior role, there are leadership qualities that are considered valuable, and if you demonstrate them, it may put you ahead of other candidates. Some employers will even put them down as desirable abilities in the job specification; such as “Demonstrated leadership abilities and experience” which shows the candidate that that employer prizes leadership qualities in their employees. There are of course, different leadership styles and some people are too demanding, authoritative and disrespectful of the people they lead which may help get the job done, but doesn’t make them a good leader.

Some good leadership traits could include experience in the following areas:

  • Planning and delivering
  • Adaptability and flexibility with change
  • A drive to learn and improve
  • Building confidence and motivating yourself and others

If you cannot think of when you did any of those at work, or you do not have much work experience, then have a think of when could you have demonstrated leadership skills outside of work. For example:

  • Captain of a sports team or club leader
  • Planning big parties or community events
  • Taking the lead on a university or college project

How do these become good leadership skills examples and what if you do not have any?

It’s can be difficult to gain leadership skills without actually being in a position of leadership, but we have included the above examples because it is possible to gain those skills in a team environment and they can used to demonstrate your potential leadership abilities in an interview or CV.

  • Planning and delivering

The ability to plan and deliver projects successfully, even small ones, demonstrates that you can think strategically and make decisions that acknowledge consequences and outcomes. It may require delegation, managing a schedule and working to achieve a specific outcome.

  •  Adaptability and flexibility with change

Along with successfully planning and delivering work; leaders should be adept at reacting positively to change and being able to navigate themselves, and others, through transformations, problems and alterations to the norm. These don’t have to be huge revolutions but should demonstrate an understanding of positively handling change.

  •  A drive to learn and improve

A good leader demonstrates that they can take responsibility for their work and professional development; that they take their job seriously and want to learn, be it from mistakes or through new processes. Leaders are motivated staff who want to excel, and drive their company to success so employers find this quality very desirable in employees outside of formal leadership roles.

  •  Building confidence and motivating yourself and others

Confidence is an important quality for leaders because it makes other people feel secure and motivates others to achieve more. For example; a Checkout Assistant who is confident with the refund policy and how to handle complaints will be sought after by colleagues with upset customers as the customers will feel better dealing with someone who seems like they know what they are talking about. The colleagues might be less inclined to ask a Team Leader for help with an upset customer, if the Team Leader is timid and can’t handle getting shouted at by customers calmly. With a strong role-model to follow, employees become more confident and are motivated to take more responsibility themselves.

  •  Captain of a sports team or club leader

This might involve motivating others to achieve a team goal or target that includes coordinating them to learn from mistakes and improve techniques

  • Planning big parties or community events

Planning and delivering an event should involve some strategic thinking and the ability to be flexible when problems arise.

  •  Taking the lead on a university or college project

Organising a group to start and finish a graded project could involve taking the responsibility of handling schedules, delegating workloads and motivating people to improve their contributions for the benefit of the group.

If you have not had the opportunity to learn or demonstrate these skills, but you want to; consider joining a sports club, society, social group or volunteer to build them.

Here are some key points on how to give the best answers to a leadership skills related question:

  • Stick to STAR format answers and give examples with results that focus on your achievement
  • Mention the specific skills you use that are also in the job specification, as this highlights that you understand what you are talking about, and that you can deliver what the role requires
  • Include examples where actual leaders, such as Team Leaders or Managers, have supported what you have done and given you good feedback on your leadership abilities.

Do you have any nightmare leadership skills examples or advice for a strong answer? We’d love to hear from you, leave comments below or share on your Facebook or Twitter!

By Rebecca Guy 13 Nov, 2017

Transferable skills refer to the strengths and attributes a candidate has, that are not role-specific but are valuable for the diverse ways they can be used across different roles, departments and industries. Transferable skills are also known as portable or soft skills and differ from, what are known as, hard skills, because soft skills can be developed outside of a professional environment and are just as valuable in one industry, as the next. Hard skills however, are more likely to be developed for the purpose of work and generally do not transfer well into other roles.

For example: a hard skill may be having specialist knowledge of wildlife photography but having excellent soft skills in communication with customers and staff would just as relevant in a retail store or restaurant as a photography studio. The photographer in this example, may have developed those excellent communication skills over a few years, different jobs or even a volunteering position.

Because of the fluid nature of transferable skills, it is possible to see that they are particularly helpful for candidates who do not have much work experience, or are switching careers. Graduates, especially, increasingly need to prove they are ready for work after university but face problems when they have a degree but no work experience. For someone who is switching from one career to the next, your valuable transferable skills might help you get your foot in the door if you can prove you are an asset, despite a lack of the specific hard skills required for the role.

Employers look for both hard skills and soft skills in a potential employee and a CV is the perfect starting point to demonstrate that you, as a candidate, are proficient in both types of skills. Most job descriptions will list the soft skills they employer would like to see so next it is just down to the candidate to prove they’ve got them.

Transferable skills really benefit from the STAR treatment (Situation, Task, Action and Result), as they demonstrate your skills best when you can explain a bit about the scenario in which you used the skills, but because they may not be exactly relevant to the role you’re applying to, explaining the results of your actions helps cement your skills.

In this blog series, we’re going to look at 7 of the most important transferable skills and provide some examples of how to get them, and how they can be used in different jobs.

  • Teamwork
  • Time Management and Organisation
  • Communication and Interpersonal Skills
  • Problem Solving and Initiative
  • Customer Service
  • Information Technology
  • Leadership

Today we’ll be looking at….

Information Technology

IT is hard to avoid nowadays as it is used in the most basic of roles, as well as more complex and demanding work. Even if you are not applying for roles that involve sitting at a computer all day, there is no doubt that IT has crept into almost every role, from using electronic point of sales systems or clocking in systems for shifts, to creating spreadsheets and managing several shared calendars and email accounts. IT skills can definitely be taught as a ‘hard skill’ that can only be applied in certain roles, such as coding, but once you understand how to use Outlook, for example, in one role, you can transfer that to any role you move to that uses Outlook.

For example, employers may want to know if you understand, and have experience in, the following IT activities:

  • Using emails and calendar software
  • Understanding how the internet works
  • Knowing how to stay safe online
  • Can use documents and databases
  • Can adapt and learn new IT related products or procedures
  • Can use equipment such as printers and telephones

If you cannot think of when you did any of those at work, or you do not have much work experience, then have a think of when could you have demonstrated information technology skills outside of work. For example:

  • Using emails for personal use
  • Troubleshooting your own IT issues
  • Teaching someone else how to use something

How do these become good time information technology skills examples?

Being comfortable with, and adapting to new, technology is integral to employers, who need to know that you can do the ‘hard skill’ of the job, without needing to be trained on what they might consider to be basic IT skills. They need to be confident that an employee won’t panic or give up when something breaks or a new technology is introduced and that employees feel at ease communicating through technology without training. Emails, internet based phone systems, multi-use printer machines and computer programmes have become so helpful to businesses that it is hard to find a company that does not use them, and if a new employee starts a job, unless it is an IT role, being trained on how to do the job correctly usually won’t include basic IT as employers will expect you to be competent at that already.

What if you do not have any?

It is difficult to fake having good IT skills but easier to be open-minded and flexible about learning the skills and the best way to increase your IT skill level is by practicing them. Dependent on your experience with technology you could be better at using IT than you think. For example, my first interaction with internet connected multi-use printers/fax/photocopiers came at university and I have ended up using them many times in offices since, but it was helpful that I already learnt how to use them. University is also a great time to learn better internet based researching techniques, send emails frequently, submit work electronically and manage an online calendar.

Troubleshooting IT issues, or helping someone with an IT problem outside of a work environment is still troubleshooting and training, if done successfully, and there is no reason why someone with a low level of IT experience, can’t refer to that success on their CV.

Another option, if your skills are very low and you don’t have access to personal IT already, go to your local library and ask for help finding free courses or how to access tutorials online. You will find that library staff are happy to talk you through basics like turning on, and operating, a computer and will show you how to access and search You Tube for videos on thousands of subjects. All you need is a piece of paper and pen to make notes, then you can practice what you learn on the library computers. They might even offer a free course themselves that you can sign up for and you can use information you already have, such as your household budget to learn programmes like Excel that require data input. You can also ask a technically savvy friend to take you through a few things they might use at work or volunteer somewhere where they will give you training on how to use equipment like a till in a charity shop.

We’ve already looked at some instances of when good information technology skills are used, let’s look at them in more detail.

  • Using emails and calendar software

Sending emails to colleagues and customers is the cornerstone of many roles as it has become one of the main ways to communicate with people however most email systems are similar so once you have learnt how to use one, it is fairly easy to transfer that skill onto a different system. Similarly, with electronic calendars, which are used so that your colleagues can see your schedule too, managing and accessing them is important but they are not very different from each other.

  • Understanding how the internet works

The internet contains so much information it is actually hard to locate exactly what you need to know sometimes, especially if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. Without going into too much technical detail, employers want staff who understand how internet search engines work, what the difference is between email web-clients and email programmes and how the internet can be used as a professional and helpful work tool, not an exciting distraction.

  • Knowing how to stay safe online

Using the internet however, is fraught with issues and concerns that workplaces take very seriously, and employers often expect staff to have a basic understanding of how to stay safe online, and how to protect confidential information, even if they then offer official or informal training on top of that. Make sure you understand the risks with using the internet and how to treat electronic information and data with care and responsibility as employers want to be able to trust staff with the information they handle.

  • Can use documents and databases

Almost every role will require employees to be able to type on a keyboard and many will also require typed information to be presented into word documents as reports or notes which will require an understanding of how to create and save documents on computers or cloud based technology. In addition, employees may need to use databases frequently, to input or find information on and though these can differ wildly in design, they basic principles behind them can be similar. This varies across sectors however; different Relational Databases may be fairly similar, but they are different from Hierarchical Databases and Object-Orientated Databases for example.

  • Can adapt and learn new IT related products or procedures

One of the best transferable skills people can have is the ability to be flexible (which is further discussed in our Problem Solving and Time Management blogs) so demonstrating you can adapt and learn when new IT products or procedures are implemented is a fantastic quality. Even if you are not familiar with the new equipment or programme, employers prefer staff who are open-minded to learning something new and positive about its benefits.

  • Can use equipment such as printers and telephones

IT doesn’t just mean computers; printers, telephones, shredders, laminating machines and all sorts of other workplace equipment have had technology upgrades over the last decade so if you have been out of work for a while, or not come across these kinds of apparatus before, it might be difficult to learn how they all work and what they are used for. The first rule here is not to panic, just ask someone to show you how it works, or make a note of the make and model and look up how to use it on the internet!

  • Using emails for personal use

If you have a personal email account that you use then you probably have the basic functions for using work emails down, you just need to be aware that work based ones will often encompass, additional graphics, web-links, diary management, contacts and task lists too, as well as perhaps having more than one email account to manage and other people having access to all the information. The other difference is making sure you use professional language in your work emails and accept that there may be strict company rules on what you can use emails for.

  • Troubleshooting your own IT issues

If you have ever used technology, no doubt at some point it broke, and you were faced with finding someone who could help you fix it through taking it back to the shop, sending it off for repair, or you used your problem-solving skills to work out what the problem was and fix it. If you then find out it definitely needs to be sent off, then you do that, but your first port of call was to see if you could work out the issue yourself. This is a fantastic quality to have as employers want staff who understand that the printer has probably stopped working because it has run out of paper, and then change the paper themselves when they confirm it, not abandon the printer and hope someone else deals with it, or call IT support unnecessarily.

  • Teaching someone else how to use something

If you are comfortable enough with technology that you feel confident showing someone else how to use it then those situations can be used as slightly stronger examples for demonstrating your IT skills. Examples are always preferred when you can discuss not only how you use IT, but that you are capable of training others on how to use it too and this is because it shows that you are more than confident in your own abilities and might be a good team player which are fab qualities for an employee to have.

Here are some key points on how to give the best answers to an information technology skills related question:

  • Don’t exaggerate your skills; if you are perfect for a job in every other aspect but maybe aren’t quite an advanced Excel user yet, don’t say that you are one and hope to “wing it”. Instead, be upfront and give examples of how you are capable of learning quickly and rising to challenges.
  • Be prepared to demonstrate your IT skills to the interview panel; if good typing skills are an essential part of the role, you may be given an assessment to demonstrate your level. Get in some practice on the IT skills mentioned in the job description before you go to the interview so you are more prepared and relaxed.
  • Mention any training you have had, whether it’s formal or informal, and how you have implemented it.
  • Think about the language you use carefully; if you are really good at IT, don’t talk down to your interview panel, over use technical jargon or talk derogatively about people who are not at the same level as you.
  • The internet is full of answers but a good place to start is by using the Which? Computing Helpdesk (you have to be a member but it is free) who can help with a variety of IT topics. If this is too much you could start by buying one of the “ For Dummies ” books which are fantastic at breaking complex information down into easy to understand parts and can help you from step one.
  • You can also read this list of basic IT skills you might need, and for which jobs by Career Tool Belt .

Do you have any nightmare information technology skills experiences or advice for a strong answer? We’d love to hear from you, leave comments below or share on your Facebook or Twitter!

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