How to identify your transferable skills

If you’re applying for a job but don’t have any, or much, professional experience, it can be tricky to know what to include on your CV. But any life experience you have will be valuable when applying for a job or apprenticeship – it’s how you talk about that experience that matters.
Here, we outline some of the skills you might want to talk about, using examples you may have experienced at school.

What might you need to use transferable skills for?

You might need to identify your skills for:

Transferable skills are things you can bring out when you:

How to identify what skills you have

Firstly, think about all the things you’ve achieved in your lifetime so far and write them down. You might want to think about:

  • any work experience you have: this might be a part-time job on Saturdays, a week of work experience, volunteering at a charity shop or anything similar. No matter how small you think it is, this can show core skills like dedication and time management
  • things you’re proud of: for example, awards you might have got at school like sporting achievements, raising money for charity, or academic achievements. This can help you show how you stand out in a crowd or show how you go above and beyond
  • things you’ve been part of: for example, a club or society, a sports team, or being in a school play. This can show working as part of a team and communication skills
  • school projects: for example, group presentations. Group work and finishing projects with other people is a huge part of working life and going to university
  • any hobbies or interests: perhaps you play a musical instrument or have a passion for art in your spare time. Use this to showcase key skills like patience, dedication, and willingness to learn
  • any responsibilities you have: maybe you’ve been editor of the school newspaper, captain of a sports team, or led a school project. This all shows leadership, confidence and the ability to step up and put yourself forwards
  • any other life experience you’ve had: you may have been a young carer or had to manage some difficult circumstances throughout your life. This might have meant you couldn’t take part in typical school clubs and activities. But this can still show skills like resilience, independence, and problem-solving

Once you’ve written down all your achievements and activities, think about the skills to attach to them. It might be helpful to have a table including the achievement in one column and the skills you’ve used or gained in the other. This will give you a good starting point of the things to include.

Top tip

If you’re working through a particular job description, always look at the skills the company is looking for and cross-compare them to your own.

For example, if they are looking for problem-solving, then think about a time when you did something to show that skill.

Kerry Blondell, senior recruiter at Cognizant

If you don’t have much experience, particularly as a school leaver, list some of the events you've attended. For example, networking events or insight events at a particular company. It shows initiative, drive, and passion. If you’re interested in something, you need to show it.

Examples of transferable skills

Below are some examples of how you might frame your experience into transferrable skills. The skills are highlighted in bold.

Meet Ben: the hustler

Ben works part-time as retail assistant in a supermarket at the weekends and in school holidays. He is also studying for his A levels at the same time. Ben could draw from this:

  • Time management: He needs to make time for working and studying.
  • Organisation: He gets himself to work, school, and manages a social life.
  • Drive: Ben got the part-time job because he wanted to earn money and get experience.

Meet Anna: the baking queen

Anna is currently studying in her last year at college. In her first year, there was an opportunity to go out to Kenya and volunteer with school. She needed to raise £1,000 to go. She organised a bake sale and ran a 10K race through her local town. She managed to raise the money, and some extra for the charity. Anna’s transferrable skills might be:

  • Commitment: She knew she needed raise the money for the trip and committed to the cause.
  • Proactive: She organised the bake sale by herself, set up her own fundraising website, and did the marketing to get people to donate.
  • Caring: Anna was passionate about helping the local community in Kenya and what she did will help people.

Meet Jodie: the footie fanatic

Jodie has been part of her school football team for the past two years. She’s very passionate about football and helps organise the transport for matches, as well as playing herself. She’s always trying to boost team morale. Jodie could draw from this:

  • Passion: Jodie is passionate about her team and wants them to do well. She always gives the team a boost when they need it.
  • Teamwork: She is good at working with others to get the job done.
  • Attention to detail: Jodie has to make sure everything is just right with the transport and schedule to make sure everyone gets to the matches on time.

Meet Aki: the piano player

Aki has been playing the guitar since he was five years old and has reached his Grade 8. He also plays the piano and the clarinet. He’s played in lots of school concerts and has recently decided to start his own band. Some of Aki’s transferrable skills might be:

  • Patience: It has taken Aki a long time and a lot of perseverance to get his Grade 8 piano.
  • Confidence: It takes a lot for Aki to get up on stage and play in front of lots of people at school concerts and gigs with his band.
  • Challenges himself: Aki is always pushing himself out of his comfort zone to try and get better.

Meet Sam: the keen journalist

Sam has written for the school newspaper for two years. She was recently promoted to editor. She makes sure the paper gets out on time and manages a team of five other journalists. Some of Sam’s key skills might be:

  • Leadership: Sam has to keep her team motivated and direct the rest of the team.
  • Hitting deadlines: She has to work to specific deadlines and make sure everything is ready for then.
  • A good listener: Sam has to listen to all her writers' opinions and make sure they’re taken into consideration.

Meet Joel: the young carer

Joel has been caring for his dad since he was 11 and helps looks after his younger sister. He does most things around the house, takes his sister to school, and makes sure his dad has the medication he needs. Some of Joel's transferrable skills might be:

  • Independence: Joel has been very independent from a young age.
  • Resilience: He has had to show resilience when things have been difficult.
  • Time management: Joel has needed to care for his family, get himself to school, and study for his exams.

You can find out more about skills as a young carer from the Carer's Trust.