I have both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Communication. It’s safe to say... I like to talk, a lot.
I now work full-time as a Career Advisor at a university’s career center. For the past 4 years, I have worked at two different university’s career centers, and I’ve collectively advised over 600 college students with navigating their professional journeys. I’ve participated in countless employer advisory boards, and I’ve interacted with so many employers who specifically want to hire top-notch college graduates. I’ve learned quite a few things over the years about what makes a candidate stand out, but there’s ONE CRUCIAL THING that keeps coming up repeatedly. It’s even listed as one of NACE’s most-desired competencies (link at bottom). And quite honestly, it can make or break the interview. Any guesses??
Now, communication is such a vague term. How do you REALLY know if this is your strength? Talking with strong pronunciation? Prioritizing relationships with your peers and supervisors? Good at grammar and sentence structure? Responding quickly to texts? Good at making lists? Keeping in touch with people often? Enjoys conversations?
When you’re thinking about your professional life, the best thing you can do as a professional is knowing how to communicate about your experiences. The key to this is focusing on TRANSFERABLE SKILLS, such as problem-solving, thriving in a fast-paced environment, analytical, leadership, self-starter, teaching, research, or helping skills (just to name a few!).
So, how do we focus more on transferable skills rather than technical skills? Let’s make this more practical.
Let’s say that you’re trying to land your DREAM INTERNSHIP of being your favorite singer’s personal assistant for the summer. You have three main experiences on your resume: coffee shop barista, your university’s dining center worker, and summer babysitting. I bet you’re thinking... “There’s no way I’m qualified for this.” HOLD UP! Yes, you are.
“Transferable skills” is just a fancy term that means soft skills that you’re learning somewhere (anywhere, really) that can be transferred into the job you’re applying to. In other words, transferable skills can be skills that are applicable in every single industry.
So, what transferable skills did you learn by being a barista at a coffee shop? I’ve never been a barista, but I know they have to develop and utilize strong attention-to-detail skills to make sure they don’t mix up ingredients. And working with all those customers in the early morning before they’ve had coffee? You definitely must have strong people skills and know how to diffuse a situation. Your other jobs are babysitting and working in a student dining center. I know you had to teach someone else how to clean the tables properly (teaching skills!!!. When nannying, did you constantly have to think of new, engaging activities to do (creative skills!!!)?
So now, let’s hop over to your dream internship. Are you going to have to make deluxe coffee drinks or babysit a bunch of kiddos? Probably not. But, will you need to use strong people skills to diffuse a situation? YES! Will you need to pay close attention to detail when arranging travel plans for your favorite singer? YES! See how your coffee barista position is, all of a sudden, extremely relevant?
SIDE NOTE: This applies to a resume, as well! The bullet points are SO IMPORTANT on your resume. The purpose of the bullet points is to talk about the TRANSFERABLE SKILLS you learned and what you accomplished. The bullets should never look like the “Duties Required” section on a job posting. When creating and proofreading your bullets, ask yourself “What skill did this just communicate about myself that can be transferred into the job I’m applying for?” If you can answer that question from the bullet, then it’s probably a strong bullet. If not, reword it so it highlights those transferable skills!
As you can see, the key is learning how to talk about your transferable skills when you’re talking about any of your experiences. Especially if you’re a young professional, employers know that you may not have experience in that specific industry. But, they do want to see if you can sell your experiences in a way that highlights those transferable skills! So, the next time you ask yourself, “Is this experience relevant to put on my resume or talk about in an interview?” The answer is always YES, but only if you highlight those transferable skills.
Keep in touch with Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Instagram @lisa__jane__ or LinkedIn!