Understanding Why You Need to Develop and Share Your Transferable Skills with Potential Employers
All job seekers have special skills and abilities – some more than others – but we can all do something well. Yet because of this fact, we are each other’s competition. So, who gets the job?
- Is it the one with the best skills?
- The friendliest one?
- The best dressed one?
- The one with the most outstanding resume?
- The most effective communicator?
- The one asking for the least pay or the most?
- The tough, competitive one?
- Or the easy-going, mild-mannered one?
- The recent graduate or the non-degreed, experienced pro?
Difficult to project the outcome, isn’t it? That’s because all employers simply want to hire the right fit – the person who can get the job done and get along with everyone else in the process. The right fit will also show up on time, work hard, learn quickly, excel, be content with the job/pay, and stick around long enough to grow with the company.
Yes, there are thousands of scenarios to consider, but overall, employers hire employees they believe will fit in with the team and excel in meeting both the short and long-term goals of the company. So, how does a person go about conveying that they are this type of person to an interviewer? That’s a loaded question, to be sure, but let’s attempt to breakdown an answer to it.
Even more than the resume or the well-dressed image you present at the interview, the real answer may lie in the soft or transferable skills which you have developed and your ability to convey them to a potential employer during the interview process.
Below are a few examples of transferable skills:
- Being a life-long learner
- Being known by your co-workers, supervisors and customers as a friendly and approachable person
- Ability to relate well to others in your proximity and work successfully in a team-oriented environment
- Possessing leadership capabilities such as initiative and the willingness to delegate without micromanaging; being assertive as needed yet perceived as gracious and kind
- Having strong written and verbal communication skills
- Self-awareness leading to self-improvement
- The ability to organize projects and daily tasks to the point of reaching one’s goals
- Number skills – basic math skills plus an ability to read charts, graphs and other statistics
- Practical experience and skill as an active listener; having a healthy curiosity about others, their work and life experiences; knowing how to ask questions which result in on-going conversation
- Analytical skills of logical reasoning and interpretation, especially concerning complex subject matters but not being dismissive of more simplistic tasks either
- A level of confidence that doesn’t cause you to operate out of fear
- Being sincerely and habitually polite, tactful, and diplomatic
- The ability to inspire and motivate others when sharing your goals
- Having a proven strategy in place for managing one’s stress
- Personal accountability that breeds peer respect
Why is being a life-long learner so important? Well, it’s impressive - shows your initiative and interest in the world at large and demonstrates your interest in being the best you can be.
How do you convey this? Say it and then explain what habits or strategies you utilize in developing your knowledge and skills. I met a lady recently who is a member of lynda.com, and she is always learning new software or familiarizing herself with updated technology. Perhaps you read certain types of blogs just to keep up with the latest trends. Whatever you do, try to work it into your interview conversation or find an appropriate way to include it on your resume.
Having a friendly demeanor and being able to express that friendly manner in both your words and actions is a positive thing.
What types of words and actions portray friendliness?
- Sincere words of greeting, interest and appreciation
- Taking time to briefly converse with someone on a personal level
- Encouraging words
- Going the extra mile to help a customer or co-worker
- Relating and understanding words
- A listening ear
- Being curious about another person and asking appropriate questions
- Treating or inviting a co-worker to lunch once you’ve established a basis for friendship
- Opting to be a part of the larger social group occasionally rather than choosing to be alone every opportunity you have
Whether an extrovert or an introvert, I realize that most people will struggle to ever be friendly in all these ways. However, to be found approachable, you must find your way of being friendly and perfect it as an art form.
Relating Well to Others
How well do you mesh with others in your office or on the team? Are you the loner or the talker or the whiner? Are you an asset or a liability? The rude one or the tactful, diplomatic one? Do you realize that you will be labeled by most people in one way or the other? That said, you simply must strive to relate to others as well as possible from day one of your employment. Learning to relate to and enjoy your co-workers is of the utmost importance – maybe just as important as the job itself.
How do you build relationships? Introduce yourself, be friendly and ask good questions.
But know that there are 2 types of people in this world: extroverts and introverts. Figure out who is which and go from there. Extroverts tend to love talking and sharing their opinions as well as interesting things about their lives, so give them opportunities to shine and tell their stories. Introverts tend to enjoy their quiet and alone time, working and thinking, so when they are on break is the probably the right time to approach them. You will be more successful at establishing these relationships a little at a time. They are the ones you will come to know best during one-on-one time.
Be mindful and intuitive about what the different personalities need from you: a chance, appreciation for any help they offer or questions they answer, and respect for who they are and the work they do.
What have you done in previous jobs to establish yourself as a leader? Are you such a natural leader that you must be mindful about overstepping your bounds? Or are you one who enjoys working in the background so much that any leadership skills you possess are usually overlooked?
A few aspects of leadership that you should consider and understand about yourself are abilities like those listed below:
- Honed personal skills
- Ability to speak well and motivate a team
- How well you manage anything
- Ability to focus and listen well
- How you go about solving problems
- Ability to adapt to changes in procedures, personnel or management
- Confidence in speaking up and speaking out; willingness to engage in healthy debate
- Assertive enough to teach; humble enough to say, “teach me”
So, how do you measure up? Even if you have been out of the workforce for a while or if you are a recent graduate, you should consider ways in which you have developed as a leader. Be ready to share those experiences with your interviewer as well as ways in which you would still like to grow and establish yourself as a leader.
First, what are good communication skills? I can tell you straight out – it means different things to people! But for the most part, a job description asking for strong written and verbal communication skills means just that. A person should be able to write well – in complete sentences, using mostly correct grammar, and able to convey a point persuasively yet professionally. Having strong verbal skills infers an ability to speak well, in the same manner as you write – able to communicate clear and concise thoughts, use correct grammar, persuade and motivate.
The grammar aspect can be tricky, however. Some companies insist on hiring someone with near perfect grammar, especially when the employee will be dealing with professional level customers and clients on a routine basis. Other companies are not as particular about grammar usage as their desire is for people who can listen and relate well to a broad spectrum of people. It's two different types of communication skills which may be needed.
As a job seeker, you would do well to ask others for insight regarding your speech and grammar so that you know where you are on this spectrum. Your friends and family might say you sound too soft-spoken, too loud, too raspy, or even that you talk too fast. Maybe you have poor subject-verb agreement. I realize this isn’t middle school grammar class, but I’ve had more than one professional client tell me “no” about a candidate for just those sorts of reasons. Know your level of communication skills. Ask for constructive criticism and then work hard to break speaking or writing habits that may be a deterrent to potential employers.
This is a well-explored topic and one that should be developed over a lifetime. Being self-aware is only a plus if you learn to manage yourself, your habits, and your emotional tendencies in appropriate ways. Otherwise, we can become depressed just by thinking about all the ways we fall short among our competition. Here are a few examples of self-awareness labels and strategies for self-improvement:
- If you tend to be late, work hard to break that habit and establish yourself as always prompt, even early.
- If you tend to get mad easily, learn what your most common triggers are, and then work to establish strategies for managing and redirecting that anger; find methods for reacting and responding in a more professionally appropriate manner.
- If your natural expression is a frown, work on smiling as you work, but especially as you walk and speak with others.
As human beings, we are all less than perfect, but that is not to say that we can’t strive to grow personally and work to improve our shortcomings.
Organizing and Accomplishing Goals
Are you messy or a neat freak with a serious case of OCD? Whatever label you must claim, it is imperative that you learn to organize the days of your life in such a way as to accomplish your daily tasks, be on time and where you’re supposed to be on any given day, and reach your long-term goals.
How to get organized:
- Invest in a planner, paper or digital.
- Write down your goals, daily tasks, special days, holidays, appointments, and long-term goals for each day, week, month, quarter, and year as needed.
- Check off your accomplished goals and pat yourself on the back each time one is met.
- Look ahead and plan well.
- Use MS Outlook’s calendar. Sync it with the app you use on your mobile phone. Don’t have 3 or more separate calendars (home, office, personal) unless they are synced together.
Someone with basic number skills will be able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide accurately. Being able to operate a calculator or adding machine correctly is also a valuable skill. Learning how to read and understand various charts, graphs and statistics (such as ratios and percentages) would also be important and could save embarrassment in front of one’s peers.
If you did poorly in high school math, it does NOT mean that you should label yourself as someone without basic math skills. Many jobs do not require an algebraic knowledge of math but more of a 5th-8th grade level of understanding, if that. A basic teller position simply requires the ability to count large sums of money and change correctly. So, be careful not to eliminate yourself as a candidate if this subject comes up. Say what you are comfortable with and move on.
Active Listening Skills
Has anyone ever called you a great listener? It’s surely because you tend to listen and respond well when others come to you with a problem. On the other hand, have your friends and coworkers ever complained that you were a terrible listener? Perhaps you tend to be easily distracted and unable to maintain your focus and attention when others are speaking and you’re not.
But whatever the problem is, you should work to improve your listening skills as much as possible. The ability to listen well during training sessions at the office or even to your spouse at home is a noble and valuable skill in life.
Here are some suggestions on how to become a better listener:
- Show the person that you are understanding what they are saying by using words of agreement, nodding your head, or uttering a brief word in response.
- Make eye contact with the person. Do not show signs of distraction by looking at the clock, your computer or cellphone.
- Mimic their facial expressions as they share information with you.
- Avoid interrupting or offering quick answers and responses to what the person is sharing, be it a problem or a bit of good news.
Can you handle complex issues? Are you able to read difficult material and still have at least a basic understanding of what you read? When faced with a challenge, are you immediately overwhelmed, or does your brain automatically begin thinking through potential solutions? Does your presentation of a solution to a problem or a new idea reflect solid logic and rational thinking?
Consider your honest responses to these questions as you ask yourself whether you truly possess analytical skills or not. At an interview, be prepared to share an example illustrating a time when you responded rationally and wisely to a challenging or complex situation.
Do you convey a noticeable and admirable level of confidence to others?
A firm handshake, direct eye contact, and a smile can convey confidence whereas a weak handshake (or the absence of one), a lack of direct eye contact, and a nervous demeanor will confirm your fears related to both job interviews and people. If either the fear factor or the confidence level is too extreme, you will probably lose your opportunity for the job on the spot as fear breeds more fear, and an overly confident manner exudes arrogance, neither of which are desirable or competitive traits in a valuable candidate.
A self-confident candidate knows that s/he possesses desirable traits and skills and will work hard to get comfortable in conveying that to potential employers. Therefore, practice your handshake. Be sure your overall look conveys confidence . . . or a little humility, as needed. Write down your top skills and traits (even include a few of the most obvious ones on your resume) and ponder the best ways to communicate them. Do the research on what to expect and how to prepare for an interview. Then work on perfecting your interview skills.
A Polite Manner
So many people in today’s world do not understand what others interpret as rude behavior. Not having anything to say when someone else speaks to you can be perceived as rude. Moving away too quickly after just meeting someone can be equally offensive. Looking away instead of speaking to the person you are walking past can be construed as rude – even if you are simply distracted thinking of other things. Choosing to sit alone rather than with a group may also be interpreted as rude, arrogant, and unsociable behavior.
Practice being considerate and polite toward all people. Practice your diplomacy skills. Learn how to keep your foot out of your mouth and instead be tactful and respectful. Your interviewer and potential co-workers will appreciate this.
Ability to Inspire Others
Do others listen when you start talking? Are others naturally attracted to your voice, personality or knowledge? Do they get excited when they hear your ideas? Is motivating others something you must work at, or does it happen easily?
Great motivators all have one thing in common: they understand WHAT motivates others, and then they use that approach in communicating goals. When speaking, they appeal to all their team members based on what motivates them.
According to TTI Success Insights’ Personal Motivation and Engagement assessment, there are 6 categories in which the primary motivations of people may be ranked: traditional, utilitarian, theoretical, individualistic, aesthetic and social.
- People with high utilitarian scores are usually motivated by money or by what is truly useful.
- Traditional people are motivated by having a system for living: rules, regulations, and principles for life.
- Theoretically-minded individuals are motivated by discovering truth and are interested in reason, logic, empirical evidence, and knowledge.
- Individualistic people tend to be motivated by the drive for power: influence and renown that are personal in nature, not political.
- Aesthetically-motivated people are influenced by beauty, form, and harmony: they see life as a procession of events to be enjoyed; not necessarily related to creative or artistic talents.
- Socially-motivated individuals possess an inherent love of people and believe that helping others is the best human relationship which exists.
Most jobs will involve a little stress, so when an interviewer meets a potential candidate, watching the interviewee work through strategically-asked, somewhat stressful questions can be very enlightening.
We all need a method for working through stressful situations. What do you do? Can you think clearly under pressure and formulate an effective response? Do you have enough self-awareness to self-correct when faced with a stressful situation and find yourself not dealing with it in an appropriate manner?
Here are a few basic suggestions for managing and working through your stress during an interview:
- Consider the problem or the question aloud. Take a minute to consider your reaction or answer.
- Ponder a wise response based on previous similar experiences from work, home, or any life event.
- In your mind, label the main, positively-expressed point that you wish to convey, then open your mouth and make the point.
While it is true that self-respect should never stem strictly from what others think or say about you, it is true that earning the respect of others goes a long way toward establishing your reputation as a human being and as an employee. Consider the questions below:
- Do other people ever compliment you for a job well done?
- Do people have reason to thank you for your hard work and efforts very often?
- Do your supervisors ever point out ways in which you are effective and productive as an employee?
If so, you have earned some level of respect from the world at large. Congratulations!
Being well-respected by others is key to so much of a person’s success. But I believe it is in maintaining one's self-respect and personal accountability which breeds even greater respect. The well-respected employee will always be aware of what they are doing well or not so well and will often be generously supported in their self-improvement efforts leading to yet more success.
Think for a moment how you have been treated by hiring managers as well as current and past employers. Try to see things from their perspective as you consider this subject of "respect":
- Do hiring managers and employers want to converse with you?
- Do they consider you a valuable candidate or employee?
- Are you receiving interview or leadership opportunities?
- Are you getting job offers, even if you are turning them down as you look for that ideal job?
- Do people ever tell you that you interviewed well?
- Can you hear the tone of respect and admiration in your interviewer’s, manager's, coworker's or client's voice?
Suggestion: Always take note when an interviewer’s tone begins to take a downward spiral. You will need to find a way to correct what went wrong which sometimes means asking a probing question or two. Occasionally, clarification is needed for the interview to progress in a hopeful manner or end early because you honestly fail to meet a specific requirement for the job. Either way, strive to maintain the respect of the interviewer by the way you conduct yourself and answer questions with integrity.
As a job seeker, strive to perfect the transferable skills we have covered in this article. Employers value these characteristics in their employees and will more than likely hire you if you convey them effectively during an interview.