Use Your "Transferable Skills" To Bag A Job

Graduate jobs

March 30, 2021

Often, as an international student, you wonder if you’d be a fit for a job in a field that is different from your degree. For example, someone with a degree in history may not feel confident during interviews for financial graduate schemes. Considering how many of the graduate schemes are in a few sectors, you might want to apply to them. This merits the question: how do I pitch myself as a promising candidate when I don’t have a background in or knowledge of the field at all. 

This is where transferrable skills come in. 


What are Transferable Skills

Transferable skills are general abilities you’ll have gained and learned during your experiences that can be applied to a variety of different sectors and jobs. Whether you’re a philosophy student who has been writing and editing essays to strict deadlines, or a music student who has relied on other members of the orchestra to produce performances as a team, there are several transferable skills that you’ll have gained throughout your student experience that can be applied across sectors in ways you may not have thought about.


How can you use your transferable skills?

Knowing about and applying your transferable skills to match a company’s needs is essential, especially for international students applying for various graduate opportunities in different industries. Just because you may not be coming from a financial background or have a related degree, does not mean you don’t have the skills and qualities the company is looking for. 


Here are some of the ways in which to leverage your transferable skills during the application process:


Translate your experiences into transferable skills

The ‘desired skills section’ on job descriptions typically include qualities like communication skills, team-work skills, being able to work accurately and quickly under pressure, making responsible decisions, being adaptable, and so on. Although at first you may read these lists and worry about how to show you have all those qualities, you can actually match your experiences to those skills very logically.

For example, if you know or have learnt different languages, you’ll be able to show active listening skills, which means you can focus on client requests and understand communication needs. Or, if you were part of debating society at school or university, you’ll have gained confidence in public speaking and producing concise, understandable arguments which can be used during meetings at work or to convey your ideas to team members.


Identify your transferable skills

To identify your transferable skills, make a list of all your hobbies, achievements and experiences whether they be being part of a sports team or volunteering abroad. Then translate those experiences into the skills which you displayed, such as time-management or teamwork. In this way, you’ll be making your experiences relevant to the role, highlighting why you should be considered as a candidate.


Show your skills, don’t just tell

During interviews and assessment centres, explain how you have shown your ability to use the skills they require, with examples of your experiences. Don’t just list your abilities like organisation and creativity, but provide examples of how you have demonstrated these skills in real-life examples, whether professional or personal. It’s important to remember that just because the experience may not seem to be in line with the company or role, the skill definitely is.

More importantly, you can use your skills when you’re being assessed. For example, in team assessments, you can highlight how you’re a good team leader as well as a valued member of the team, and a good listener. You may not think you have those qualities at first, but you’ll have definitely picked up more than you realise along the way.

If your interviewer asks directly about your suitability, be honest about how you have gained and learned your skills from different experiences that show how you’re a unique candidate for this role. Just because you’ve never worked with spreadsheets and data sets doesn’t mean you can’t show that you’re a quick learner and strategic thinker.


Be confident in yourself and your abilities

If you head into an interview with a defeatist approach, already convinced that your skills don’t match, it’ll reflect in your responses. Be confident in your abilities yourself first. 

All employers want to know is that even if they have to train you to use specific software, you already have the habits and qualities to benefit their company and to show that you’re the ideal candidate.


Written By Meghna Amin

Meghna is an English and Philosophy student at the University of Durham, writing on various topics ranging from feminism to travel. Having interned and written for several publications including student papers and other freelance work, she's working to promote diversity in under-represented areas within the media industry.

Photo by Branko Stancevic on Unsplash

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