transferable skills

Identifying Transferable Skills

Before you start your journey to career reinvention, you’ll want to take a careful inventory of your skills. Two of the main things you’ll want to note, are your transferable skills, and any skills gaps that you have identified. Let’s look at what we mean by transferable skills.

What are Transferable Skills

Transferable skills are any skills—training, credentials, certifications, soft skills—that you possess, and can use when you make your next career move. The options for career moves are practically limitless, so the particular skills that one could consider “transferable skills” are very diverse.

Finding Your Transferable Skills

I want to share a helpful exercise that I use with my clients who are looking at other career opportunities. Sometimes, my clients can get stuck thinking that the skills they have can’t or won’t transfer well to new fields—“This is all I know how to do…”—before they realize that they are actually experts in a number of different niches. I use this exercise to help people draw on their past experience to accentuate their positive attributes.

Skills Timeline

We’re going to create a timeline of valuable, transferable skills. Grab a regular piece of printer or notebook paper, and turn it to landscape orientation. Draw a line through the middle of the page, to represent your career timeline.

Notch in the different careers or jobs you’ve held, throughout the timeline. Write down where you worked and what you did, right up from when you were young. Go through it an extra time and make sure there aren’t any odd jobs that you’ve forgotten about over the years!

Once you’ve marked down the different jobs, note the different skills that you showcased in each one. Focus on the tasks that you enjoyed, and the skills that you built because of them. Think back on any feedback you’ve gotten from your peers and supervisors over the years. Include any positive notes you can remember for each role.

The point of this exercise, of course, is to start lining up your transferable skills. Once you’ve looked back on your different jobs, you can begin to detect patterns among the skills you’ve employed throughout your career. What are the hallmarks of your career? Pick out the thread that runs through everything. Sometimes it isn’t as obvious as you might think.

What Skills Do You Value

On my timeline, I have a mark for when I was an air hostess. Early in my 20s, I had this job and I loved it. When doing this exercise, I realized that I’m good in high-stress, tense situations, and that I love customer service. This has been an ongoing theme throughout my career.

In my business now, client and customer service is paramount to me. I also thrive in crisis or when someone has a situation that needs a speedy solution. I actually enjoy finding those solutions. So, I’ve been able to pick out those skills throughout my career, in the different roles I’ve held, and rely on them to carry me through.

A recent client that I worked with on this exercise noticed that he’s been effective at influencing other people, and getting people to work well together. By looking back at his past, he realized that this is a strength that he enjoys, and also that others have pointed out to him, or endorsed him for. The message here, is to play to your strengths and the things that you enjoy.

Defining Your Transferable Skills

Once you start to notice patterns in your timeline, write down the skills involved. Don’t worry about being too specific, or too broad, or vague. Any skills that you’ve employed throughout your career are worthwhile.

Be careful to note what skills you didn’t enjoy using throughout your career. Which jobs were you not suited for, and why not? Think about the roles and tasks within your jobs. This also helps you realize that nothing that you’ve done up to this point has been a waste. Even if you hated the role, you still learned something and can take that to your next career.


  • Grab a piece of paper, landscape orientation
  • Sketch out your career timeline
  • Fill in all the skills you’ve excelled at
    • Where you’ve performed well
    • What you enjoy doing
  • Build a list of skills that you want to carry to your next career

Once you’ve outlined the skills that you can carry with you to your next career, it’s time to begin looking at options. Consider finding a career coach to help you get the most out of your career search!


Get in touch, and we can discuss the best next steps for your particular career path!