WES Advisor Blog

Trusted Advice for Academic and Professional Success

Identifying Transferable Skills to Build Your Career

Monday | October 10, 2016 | by Joanna Samuels

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In this series, Expert Ambassador Joanna answers career-related questions from our readers:

Dear Joanna,

I have finally resettled with my family in Toronto, and am a proud new Canadian! As an accomplished, internationally trained professional banker, I have started my job search by applying for jobs in my field. After a couple of months and countless applications, I have not received one phone call for an interview! How do I market my skills, qualifications, expertise, and education to build my career in Canada?

Blocked Banker

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3 Steps to Identifying Transferable Skills

Dear BB,

Welcome to Canada! One of the first things you can do to make your résumé and job application stronger is to identify your transferable skills. Let’s define the term “transferable skills” before we identify your specific skill set. Doing so will allow us to showcase your skills in your résumé and job interviews more effectively.

Step 1: Understand the Meaning of Transferable Skills

Transferable skills can be used in many different occupations and work environments. They could be natural talents that are refined through work or hobbies or education. Transferable skills provide flexibility to move from one position to another, or from one occupation or industry to another. Math skills, the ability to write engaging and effective reports, customer service skills, etc. are all examples of transferable skills.

Step 2: Make a List of Your Transferable Skills

The following categories are just a few areas in which you can identify transferable skills:

  • Communications
    • Can I explain ideas or concepts to others in a clear and understandable way?
    • Am I good at helping people work together to reach a common goal?
    • Do I often find creative concepts to persuade others to follow a specific path through media, special events, or personal involvement?
    • Can I write effective and easily understood e-mails and reports? Do I use language, grammar, and punctuation effectively to make my point?
    • Am I comfortable speaking in public?
    • Can I deliver a message to an audience with the intent of informing and/or entertaining?
  • Leadership and management
    • Am I able to negotiate in order to bring about a settlement or agreement among groups with different interests?
    • Am I good at decision making by identifying and choosing the best option from a variety of alternatives?
    • How often do I delegate, and do I delegate effectively?
    • Can I mediate to resolve or settle differences between two or more conflicting parties?
    • Do I like to organize and pull together elements of a project or program into an orderly, functional, structured whole?
    • Have I ever designed strategic planning or policy to carry out a course of action?
  • Intellectual/analytical
    • Am I able to solve problems by tracing and identifying the sources of the problem and providing a solution?
    • Do I enjoy collecting, classifying, and processing data?
    • Am I able to conduct research using observation, comprehension of written sources, or interviewing for discovery or application?
    • Do I like to analyze data, ideas, or projects, and identify their importance?
    • Can I create a budget by planning or scheduling expenses and revenues?

Step 3: Analyze the Language in Job Descriptions that Match Your Career Goals

Research job postings in your desired field of work and select the most appropriate words to describe your transferable skills. Target a few well-written postings in your field through websites like Indeed.com, Glassdoor.com, and Linkedin.com.

Look for keywords or phrases and match them to your skills. For example, as a banker you had to have excellent time management, work well under pressure, and listen attentively when dealing with customers. These are highly desirable transferable skills for any employer.

Step 4: Give Concrete Examples of Your Transferable Skills in Your Résumé, Social Media Profile, and Portfolio

For example: Expertise in meeting tight deadlines that helped my company secure US$2 million portfolio of business from a large Fortune 500 company.

Step 5: Don’t Let Your Skills Get Lost in Translation

Once you have prepared your résumé with your transferrable skills, qualifications, and other information required by the job postings, I recommend working with an employment counsellor at organizations like JVS Toronto to edit your work. If you are a permanent resident living in Toronto or are living overseas with an immigration visa to Canada, check out our CanPrep program.

I wish you much success in your job search and career growth in Canada.


Stay tuned for more tips and advice from our Expert Ambassador Joanna in the coming weeks. You can also email your career-related questions, comments, and concerns in confidence to [email protected].

Joanna Samuels is a Certified Life Skills Coach and Personality Dimensions Facilitator at jvstoronto.org.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of World Education Services (WES).