Transferable Skills: The Key to Unlocking Your Next Career Move

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Kim Green


Welcome to our blog!  I'm a data analyst + educator based in East Texas.  I write about all the insider scoop on the data analytics world and a little about me.  Come join me on the journey!

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There are two interview rooms in the HR department. Both of them hold job applicants for me to do Round Two interviews with. In the first room is a fresh college graduate with a resume that says all the right things. In the second room is a 51-year-old that is looking to transition from a different career into a data analyst role.

I’ve brought these two applicants back to go through a series of situational questions. All questions are geared not to evaluate technical expertise (hard skills), but to look for abilities to problem solve, resolve conflict, work well as part of a team, manage time well, and work effectively with upper-level executives (soft skills).

First Room: I start the interview with the fresh graduate. We move through the questions and after listening to the applicant’s answers, I can tell this person doesn’t yet have the soft skills needed to really be effective in the role that I’m hiring for.

In the other room, I give the same set of situational questions to the second applicant. This applicant answers each question in a way that exemplifies what I’m looking for. This person’s answers and examples that are given show expertise in all soft skills needed.

So, who do I hire? The second applicant. Why? Because I can teach hard skills (technical skills) all day long to the right person. But, teaching soft skills is much more difficult and can be excruciatingly painful for both the employer and the employee. Been there, done that. It wasn’t pretty.

For example: Training the right person, someone ready and willing to learn, on any software application is simple. Easy peasy. Teaching a person with great technical skills, but very poor interpersonal skills, how to work with a team is almost impossible.

If you’re really ready to make a career move, you’ll feel it in your bones that It. Is. Time. You’ve likely been putting it off and stuffing that feeling down for longer than you want to admit now. Guess what? That feeling isn’t going away. When you know…you know. Right? I’m betting though that one of the major things holding you back from getting on the path to your dream job is quite simply…you don’t feel you have anything to bring to the table. I’m here to tell you (as politely as possible) that you’re wrong!

Today, I’m going to talk about transferable skills. These are the soft skills that you’ve gained from the workplace during your career that you can take with you into your next position. These skills are extremely important in any position, no matter the industry, so don’t devalue them.

I’m about to give you a list of the top five transferable skills (soft skills) that employers are looking for when interviewing candidates for a position. As I mentioned earlier, these carry just as much weight or more than technical skills (hard skills) do when deciding on the right person for the job. Let’s dig in!

Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills are the skills you have that demonstrate good communication and interaction with other people. These people can be members of the team in your department, other team members in the organization, and the organization’s client/customer base.

In any company and in any role it’s critical that employees have good interpersonal skills because there will always, always, always be people that they must communicate and interact with. (And…get along with!)

A person who has great interpersonal skills is evidenced by someone who is a great listener, a great communicator, shows empathy toward others, and uses their skills to motivate and encourage others.

Time Management Skills

The ability to be organized and manage your time effectively is critical to employers. This soft skill can make or break an employee’s success in any position. As a data analyst, there are always projects to manage and time-sensitive deadlines.

Being able to manage your time will allow you to meet all deadlines and keep projects moving forward on schedule. Without effective time management skills, everything will go off the rails quickly!

Prioritization Skills

One thing you’ll quickly learn as a data analyst is that your priorities will change often and quickly. You may start the morning working on an urgent report that your manager has requested, only to be redirected to another – more urgent – request from executive management.

Prioritization skills are crucial in any environment, but they get a special workout as a data analyst! A data analyst’s skill set is always in high demand within an organization and the analyst has to be great at setting priorities for the work on his/her project list and then changing them quickly as needed.

Problem-Solving Skills

If you’re looking for something that will quickly make you a shining star employee in your manager’s eyes…show that you are a problem-solver.

Having the ability to not just recognize a problem, but also find creative ways to solve it is a highly desirable skill. Showing your manager that you are solution-oriented will build trust and have him/her turning to you to lead projects and teams.

Leadership Skills

Many times as a data analyst, you’ll be in a position to organize and lead meetings, manage team projects, develop new reporting structures for the organization, and many other leadership roles.

Bringing leadership skills to the table is another very beneficial soft skill set that will set you apart from others. Effective leadership involves taking charge of projects and motivating others to achieve specific goals on an individual, team, or company level. This soft skill will allow you to build trust with company management quickly as they learn to rely on you for critical project management.

The Wrap-Up

These are just a few of the transferable skills that can help you stand out from others in the job market. As you apply for a new position, take a look at the job description and see where you can highlight specific transferable skills on your resume that would be of great benefit in the role.

Download this Transferable Skills Inventory Checklist that I made for you! You have way more of these soft skills than you may think!

Don’t ever feel as if you don’t have anything of value to offer a new employer if you simply don’t have the hard skills that are required. I promise you, these soft skills are skills that employers everywhere find extremely critical to the success of their organization.

Get those soft skills on your resume!

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