Seven must-have transferable skills

They’re more general qualifications that lend themselves to a variety of expressions

As career adjustments and job-switching pick up pace, resulting from a somewhat improved employment picture and the trending migration from long-term employment with one employer to a more freelanced economy, the need for establishing and cultivating transferable skills becomes more important.

Transferable skills are those capabilities one develops in one employment context that have currency in another. For example, a teacher may find that her or his skill in curriculum instructional delivery translates well to a training and development position in business, or that a police officer's ability to confront behavioral conflict situations with the public translates well to managing order and productivity among a large retail workforce.

Transferable skills are most often not specific and discreet competencies, such as being able to make a metal-forming roll in a tool and die shop, but rather more general qualifications that lend themselves to a variety of expressions.

Convertible skills describe proficiencies that have value across a diverse set of employment situations and for this reason are skills the aspiring employee should know about and develop.

Here is my list of seven transferable skills each worker with a proclivity for a lattice rather than a linear career should work on expanding and maturing to increase their chances of customizing their career the way they want.

1. Making quality decisions: Knowing how to make high-impact and consistent decisions that take into proper perspective and consideration relevant information and that balances risk appropriately is a strong skill appreciated almost anywhere. Decision theory is like game theory, involving a durable ability to rationally reach an optimal outcome. If you are making decisions based mostly on fear and inertia, then you have something to work on.

2. Solving problems: Name me a business or organization that doesn't have a heavy need for someone who can find resolutions to perplexing problems both big and small. Refining a problem-solving approach that is orderly and technique-based with a track record for success is best. And being able to cite examples of accomplishments as performance evidence of your steady problem-solving methodology is even better.

3. Persuasion and negotiation: What is the thing most workers hate about their boss or irritating co-workers? It's when they bully and intimidate in order to get their way rather than engaging in a thoughtful and genuinely persuasive argument. And yes, although it doesn't appear to be practiced by members of Congress anymore, reaching compromise through good-faith negotiations usually yields outcomes that satisfy the greatest number of stakeholders.

4. Analysis: Being able to examine a task, phenomenon, procedure or problem can go a long way in interpreting the meaning of data or in determining the best course of action. By reducing complexity to constituent parts, a better understanding and new prospects can result. This can be useful when trying to assess and grasp the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of a venture, business or mission.

5. Synthesis: Conversely showing the skill of combining, mixing and merging ideas or materials into new and novel concepts and products is the basis of innovation and creativity. Sometimes perspectives need to be reframed so that new and different viewpoints can emerge, from which a competitive edge can arise. Freeing up and training the mind to develop unusual, but valuable means of expression allows organizations to provide improved ways of doing things.

6. Collaboration: Working in concert with colleagues and stakeholders increases productivity, more efficiently achieves quality outcomes and effectively reaches shared goals. The process of sharing knowledge and reaching consensus is essential at a time when the means of production grow ever more complex. And let's face it, having a workplace where people get along and work together is energizing and spiritually uplifting, dare I say even fun.

7. Networking with talent: Ambitious and competitive employers know that having talent in their organizations is a good thing. Now if that talent frequently interacts and learns from other gifted individuals then there is a value add. When you fertilize your career with esteemed people who you respect and who respect you, there comes an increase and growth of profit for the mastery of your career and perhaps even the bottom line for your employer.

Bill Ryan, founder of Ryan Career Services LLC, Concord, can be reached at 603-724-2289 or

Categories: Business Advice