How to Identify Transferable Skills

When looking to change industries or careers, it can be hard to know what skills you have that other industries are interested in. That can make choosing a new sector, industry or job difficult.

Identifying transferable skills is difficult. We can often see them in other people, but rarely in ourselves. Here are different approaches I have taken when helping myself or helping others.

Observe people similar to you – find people similar to you working outside your industry or working in the industry you want to move to. Note down the work they do and the requisite hard and soft skills necessary for success. You could use a table or a mind map [link to a google image or search of a mind map]. If the list is long, prioritise based on what you think are the key tasks in the role. Now, highlight all the skills you have. This is not to say you consider those skills sufficient for moving industries, just that you have them. You can spend time later honing them.

Observe yourself – take time each day for a week (or month if you are keen) to note down all of the things you do in that day (the tasks). For each task note down the skills, experience or expertise necessary for success. Again, a table or mind map will help make the process easier. The process should immediately highlight transferable skills you have. If none seem obvious, try going a level higher or lower in abstraction. For example, grant writing might come under the category of technical writing or science communication or even just plain writing. Blogs might be covered by the same list. But might also include web development, and social media skills. If you’re still unclear if a skill is transferable or not, use the skills in a search for jobs. Do they appear in ads for roles outside your current industry? If so, they are transferable. If not, they are probably not transferable.


Transferable skills – skills

that can be used in many

industries or sectors, not just one


Ask Google – a simple Google search for top five transferable skills will help you get quite a long list (much longer than five). Skim the articles for the listed transferable skills. Most articles will bold the important skills/words. Compile the list and note what you have, need or want.

Ask FFF – talk to your friends, family and fools. Well, maybe not the fools. But talk to others – in any career – about the work you do, and they work they do. The key is to get a diverse audience. Chances are you’ll starting to see common parts of the roles and these are the transferable skills. Note them down so you don’t forget.

Now that you have a list of transferable skills, you’re on your way to a new job. Next stop, building them.

The easiest way – rate yourself out of three for each skill. (3) I could do this professionally, (2) good enough for now (1) needs work. Then focus on developing the lowest rated skill until it is no longer the lowest. Development could be self-directed learning, practicing or a professional course.


Dr Richard Huysmans has helped more than 200 PhD students, early career researchers and established academics build their careers. He has provided strategic advice on partnering with industry, growing a career building new centres and institutes as well as establishing new programs. Richard is driven by the challenge of helping researchers be commercially smart. His clients appreciate his cut-through approach. He knows the sector and how to turn ideas into reality. To find out more, call 0412 606 178, email ( or subscribe to the newsletter.