Transferable skills

Employers want to hire graduates who have technical knowledge related to the job, but that’s not nearly as important as good teamwork, decision-making and communication skills, and the ability to plan and prioritise work.

You will gain skills in a variety of ways, at and beyond university: from your degree, from experience in the workplace, and from your outside interests. Wherever you gain them, you need to be able to identify and translate them into a language which a potential employer will understand.

Skills can be grouped and named in many different ways, but the important thing is to identify and understand the headings most commonly used by employers. Below is a list of skills employers typically look for when hiring graduates (they are not in any particular order):

  • Ability to communicate clearly and concisely both orally and in writing.
  • Willingness to question and listen to others to aid your own understanding and that of others.
  • Ability to explain complex information simply and at a relevant level.

e.g. You may have demonstrated this skill in seminars and tutorials, when you gave a presentation or explained a work process in any job you may have held.

  • Ability to form relationships at all levels.
  • Ability to work with others in an organised manner to achieve a goal.
  • Willingness to ask others for advice or their help when solving a problem.

e.g. You may have demonstrated this skill in any group project work, through team sports, committee activities, vacation work, etc.

Organisation and time management
  • Setting objectives and planning activities and resources to achieve a goal.
  • Ability to manage time effectively to prioritise activities and meet deadlines.
  • Achieving a productive and satisfying work-life balance.

e.g. Employers like to see well-rounded individuals who have busy lives, but who are in control. Do you write your activities down or do you carry deadlines around in your head?

Problem solving
  • Ability to assess an issue and identify key elements that need to be addressed.
  • Appreciation of all the variables affecting an issue.
  • Ability to evaluate and choose workable solutions to problems.

e.g. You may have demonstrated this skill in your academic work to solve problems, in your choice of university course and where you decided to live.

Confidence / assertiveness
  • Willingness to express needs, views and feelings clearly, confidently and courteously.
  • Appreciation of the value of one's own abilities and role.
  • Willingness to put forward ideas and stand firm on a minority or unpopular view when appropriate.

e.g. You may have demonstrated this skill through giving presentations, organising events or undertaking vacation activities such as travel which you have organised yourself and where you have had to depend upon your own initiative.

  • Energetic and enthusiastic approach to work/tasks.
  • Desire to continuously learn and develop and evaluate own performance.
  • Perseverance in the face of obstacles.

e.g. You may have demonstrated this skill in your successes to date (sporting achievements or in excellent project reports for example).

  • Having a clear vision with the ability to enthuse and influence others by gaining their trust and support.
  • Ability to listen, share and delegate when appropriate.
  • Willingness to take responsibility for a task or project to ensure it gets done.

e.g. You may have demonstrated leadership in a team sport, organising and chairing a committee or co-ordinating activities within a group project.

Openness to change
  • Ability to deal with change, both in the work place and in your personal life.
  • Willingness to learn from experience.
  • Ability to cope with new challenges and take calculated and informed risks.

e.g. Your academic experience and any work you have undertaken outside university should give you examples of when you have demonstrated this skill.

Interpersonal, intercultural and global awareness
  • Awareness and tolerance of the diverse needs, feelings and views of others.
  • Willingness to support, help and share information with others.
  • Ability to communicate and work with people from across different social and cultural backgrounds and from across different countries.

e.g. You may have demonstrated this skill in group work, in a team sport or in any work that you have undertaken.

Business / commercial awareness and professionalism
  • Understanding of the need for high quality customer service and innovative approaches.
  • Awareness of how economic and political issues can affect organisations and their products or services.
  • Recognition of the importance of a professional and responsible approach to your own role within an organisation.

e.g. You will build your awareness of the business issues affecting the sector to which you are applying as you begin to apply for jobs, as you gather details about companies and follow up information sources.

Suggested activity

Use the Transferable Skills Audit document to list your transferable skills, describe the role or experience when you used each skill, and describe what tasks you completed to develop the skill.