transferable job skills

As the end of college approaches, many students face an important question: how will you make your mark in a competitive job market? If you are approaching graduation and find yourself with limited work experience, don’t let this deter you. Believe it or not, you possess transferable job skills gained during your time at university which can help set you apart and enable success in your job search. Here’s our advice for how you can best use your existing abilities to make yourself shine when it comes time for that all-important job hunt.  

How To Identify Your Transferable Skills  

Your transferable job skills are going to be skills you’ve obtained that can transfer from one job to another. There are several valuable transferable job skills that employers look for in an employee; however, as a helpful tip, we believe that there are four most in demand hard and soft job skills employers are currently looking for. This includes technology skills, people management, communication skills, and problem solving – all skills that can transfer from college to a job, and then from one job to another. 

As a college graduate, some of these transferable job skills could be coming from a part-time job or internship. These skills are the easiest for the majority of people to recognize because they’re the most glaringly obvious. Of course your journalism internship is going to improve your interview and writing skills – which is why this is a good place to start. Try to single out major skills you’ve learned from any prior work experience that could directly relate to full-time jobs you’re searching for.  

These transferable job skills don’t necessarily have to be learned from a job or internship. This may be a relief for you college grads who didn’t have the opportunity to work throughout school.  

Think back to any class or organization you joined that required participation from you. Did you have any major class projects where you had to work with a team? What about any public speaking or presentation classes? Did you hold any leadership positions in any clubs or volunteer organizations?  

Most likely you’ve been part of one of these situations where you were required to thoroughly communicate with others, manage multiple tasks at once, etc. These are necessary skills that employers are looking for. Skills learned in non-job environments can easily translate to the workforce, so don’t underestimate them.  

Different Kinds of Transferable Skills 

There are two different types of transferable skills: soft transferable skills and hard transferable skills. Soft transferable skills are interpersonal and are based on how you handle other people and situations in your environment, like adaptability. Hard transferable skills are technical skills that are very job-specific, like graphic design.  

Have No Fear – Soft Skills Are Here (And Important!)  

While hard skills and soft skills are equally important, as a college student with most likely limited job experience, you’re going to want to figure out how to recognize and utilize the soft skills you’ve attained that can transfer from your college life to the workforce.  

To reiterate, soft skills say more about you as a person and how you might act in a work environment. While you may be a whiz in Excel, can you efficiently communicate your research and ideas to your team or to a client? Can you successfully engage employees and catch their interest? How do you handle conflict? Are you able to think rationally on your toes and deescalate serious situations?  

There’s more to a job than just being able to perform your tasks day to day, and employers recognize that. Over 90% of them say that soft skills are an important factor in who they decide to hire. Specifically, the top soft transferable job skill that employers are looking for is communication. Over 6.1 million job listings include this skill, compared to the top hard skill – Customer Relationship Management – that is only mentioned in 5.6 million job listings.  

More employers are searching for a good communicator, a soft skill, than any hard skill.  

You Know Your Transferable Skills. Now What?  

Understanding your own transferable job skills is only half of the trouble – the next is figuring out how to sell them during a job interview. As a recent college grad, you can’t bring years of experience to the table that yield the job specific skills many employers are looking for. So, you need to figure out how to highlight the transferable job skills you do have.  

First, make sure that you are showing that your skills relate to the job you’re interviewing for. This is where the biggest sell is going to be because you need to prove that the skills you learned at your part time retail job can benefit an employer at a big corporate firm. Make sure you’re broadening the description of your skill so that it can cover multiple circumstances.  

For example, if you were a waitress, talk about how your customer service skills and ability to engage customers’ attention has made you a strong and efficient communicator. Or how the fast paced and chaotic environment in a restaurant has given you the ability to adapt quickly and handle multiple tasks at once.  

Second, make sure that you show how valuable your specific set of transferable job skills are. There’s always going to be other people fighting for the same job as you that have equal or more hands-on experience. However, the way you can handle certain situations and adapt to an environment are specific to you and can help you stand out from a crowd.  

Using Outside Help 

It can be daunting to enter the workforce as a new college grad, but know that you don’t have to do it alone. If you’re having trouble recognizing your own transferable job skills and how they can get you a job, you can always reach out to an agency that specializes in helping people find jobs – like Atrium!  

Our recruiters will meet with you one on one and help you figure out how the skills you’ve learned throughout the years can transfer into a job setting. If you feel like you need that extra help, consider joining the Atrium Talent Community or participating in our Career Coaching services 

Nobody began their job search with years upon years of relevant experience and a set of job-specific skills in their pocket, so don’t invalidate the things you learned up to your college graduation date. Everyone has to start somewhere, so use what you do know to fight for the job you deserve. 


Sophie Dan
Sophie Dan

Sophie Dan currently works as an Account Coordinator at Atrium and is a graduate of Indiana University Bloomington with a BA in English, Concentration in Public and Professional Writing. As a recent job seeker herself, she brings a relevant and unique perspective to the conversation.