You probably have the skills you need to land your next job

Got skills

What’s your least favorite part of a job listing? For many job seekers, one source of frustration and discouragement is the list of qualifications.

You may be tempted to avoid a job opportunity when you don’t meet the requirements to the letter. However, when you do this, you diminish your pool of opportunities and potentially keep yourself out of a job that could be a great fit. While many jobs will require core skills, there is a way to demonstrate your ability to do the job effectively, even if you don’t have the exact experience listed.

The key is to identify your transferable skills—those skills that can be applied in a variety of professional settings–and articulate them to employers in a meaningful and relevant way. Quintessential Careers breaks down transferable skills into five main skill sets:

  • Communication: Speaking effectively, writing concisely, expressing ideas, listening attentively, reporting, and editing
  • Research and planning: Forecasting, identifying problems, extracting important information, setting goals, analyzing and defining needs
  • Human relations: Listening, motivating, cooperating, and delegating with respect
  • Organization, management, and leadership: Handling details, coordinating tasks, making decisions with others, and managing conflicts
  • Work survival: Being punctual, managing time, organizing, and making decisions

To figure out your transferable skills, try these steps:

  • Read over your resume. This might sound like a no-brainer, but take a look at what you’ve already listed. Which skills are most frequently found on your resume?
  • Review your old job descriptions. Which skills are listed? Which were most important for you to use the job well? (Take it a step further- which were ones in which you were most proficient? Used frequently? Yielded results?)
  • Review descriptions of jobs to which you aspire. Which skills are listed? Write them down and determine which are ones you have used at work (and in your personal life). How have you used them and what results did you achieve?
  • Identify what you are “known for.” What are some ways that former (and current) supervisors, colleagues, even friends and family have used to describe you?
  • If you’re still having trouble, take a skills assessment. Check out the ones featured in The Muse, such as a free version of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). What are your most prominent skills? Which best fit the jobs in which you are interested?

Compare the job to the transferable skills you have. These are the skills you should present to the employer, along with evidence of your achievements that you scored while using those skills.


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I became acquainted with Idealist in late 2000 while working in the career development office at a private liberal arts college in NYC. I used it almost daily to help students and alumni find meaningful careers. After a 12-year stint in higher education, I worked as a career coach for professionals in various industries (and still used Idealist). During one of those many searches, a listing really caught my eye- the one for the newly-created position, Careers Program Coordinator. So... I jumped at the opportunity. Since then, I took on the role of Manager of Career Content for Idealist Careers, creating career content for job seekers, leaders, and other nonprofit professionals. Understanding the roles that a positive outlook and holistic self-care play in career success, I've shared with our readers time-honored methods for improving confidence and productivity. Now, as Manager of College and Professional Development, my focus is on lifting the advice from Idealist Careers "off the page". Drawing from my experience in career development, I propel job seekers and career changers towards taking control of their searches with confidence and removing fear, uncertainty, and other blocks to success via in-person workshops and seminars, webinars, and conference programming. My great loves are cooking (preferably without a recipe, otherwise I doctor it up), dancing, live cultural performances, identifying the tasting notes in a good cup of coffee, exploring neighborhoods for hidden gems, and anything else that sparks the senses and allows me to experience all the beauty, dynamism, and intrigue that vivaciously living in a remarkable world offers.
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  1. Really helpful suggestions. I will be reading my Resume in a very new light!:)

      • Oyat Francis Otoo
      • December 4, 2014

      The information you have provided is very resourceful. I hope other job seekers get access to it though getting a new job sometime is a matter of luck or the desperate state of mind or situation of the employer

      1. Many thanks to you both for your comments! Glad you found it helpful.

    • Marjorie
    • December 24, 2014

    Very insightful article. Really sheds light on why some folks consistently get and keep jobs and others don’t. I wonder if there are classes/courses for the skills you list. It’s a wonderful business idea.

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