The Value of Transferrable Skills: How to Stand Out in Your Job Search

One of the most critical aspects of the application process is self-marketing. Simply put, this is when you describe your professional strengths to someone. It can happen on your resume, your cover letter, during your interview, and in a variety of other ways during your job search process. Self-marketing is different than self-promotion and it is not “bragging about oneself.” Self-marketing is the tactful strategy we use to intentionally point out to employers the value of our experiences and how they prepare us to do the specific job we’re targeting.

As the Associate Director for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, many of my students put tremendous effort into developing technical skills. Abilities in CAD or Python are some of the key skills for students in majors of engineering or computer science, respectively. But one gap I continue to see is the lack of self-marketing when it comes to transferrable skills. Transferrable skills can be soft skills – they can be technical skills too – but they are massively important to a successful job search.

Take a moment to consider the employer’s perspective. They are meeting you for the very first time. They likely have met with several other applicants, possibly that same day, to discuss the prospects of hiring them as a new employee to their organization. If the employer is hiring for a specialized type of work (say, Software Engineer), that employer may have just heard multiple descriptions from multiple applicants going into great detail on projects using relevant skills (say, C++). But the thought likely lingers in the interviewer’s head: “So what?”

I don’t want to diminish the value of your projects and technical skills. As a career advisor, I don’t absolve you from the practice of telling detailed stories of your technical skill development. What I want to encourage you to question as the applicant is “How can I stand out?” One of the simplest ways to do this is to target transferrable skills adjacent to technical skills in the storytelling of your projects and experiences.

Some of the top transferrable skills in career development are:
-Work ethic and initiative
-Adaptability and flexibility
-Interpersonal skills
-Organizational ability
-Strategic planning

There are numerous transferrable skills employers are searching for in the candidates for their positions. Target the skills listed in the job description, Careers, Values, or Mission pages of an employer. Use networking and employer information sessions to gather more insightful information on how to target your storytelling to what the specific employer cares about. And meet with a career advisor for individualized support on this process.

For further reading, check out some resources I’ve listed below.

The Key Attributes Employers are Looking for on Graduates’ Resumes:

Transferable Skills: 10 Skills that Work Across Industries:

Make an appointment with your career advisor to discuss more about how you can highlight transferrable skills employers are seeking:

By Jon Niles
Jon Niles Associate Director, Engineering