As students get ready to embark on their career paths, they’ll make special note of the specialized skill sets that pertain to the type of job they want to earn. (After all, how profitable is it to seek a job as a lawyer if you haven’t passed the bar, or to apply for a stylist position at a salon if you don’t know the first thing about cutting hair?) But as they prepare for their careers, they’ll also benefit from assessing other types of skills that transfer to the workplace—many of which they’ll already have gained through college and other life experiences. In their book Creating Career Success: A Flexible Plan for the World of Work, Francine Fabricant, Jennifer Miller, and Debra J. Stark list some of the many skills that transfer to the career world. These include “…communication, teamwork, creativity, research, organizational, technological, listening, observing, [and] decision making” (27). They note that you can obtain these skills through just about anything you do, from your coursework, to volunteer jobs, to your personal hobbies and interests. What’s more, these skills can have applications that can be transferred from career to career. But when it comes down to the specific careers that students hope to pursue, they should also take the time to consider how their existing skills could be relevant to the positions they hope to hold once they’ve graduated from college. By asking themselves these questions, which we’ve adapted from an exercise in Creating Career Success, students can take an inventory of the skills that transfer to the careers they’ll have after graduation, and come to see how much they’ve already learned and achieved, while also coming to recognize the skills they might still want or need to develop.

Identifying the skills that transfer to your future career

1. What career or position are you considering? Write down one of the careers you hope to pursue upon graduation. It helps to be somewhat specific; for example, rather than saying you want to work “in business,” think about a specific role, such as an account executive, a marketing communications specialist, or a business operations manager. By being specific, you can more readily address the skills you have and the skills you’ll need.

2. What are the typical skills and knowledge expected of someone in this role? To the best of your ability, determine the skills needed to complete the tasks designated by their position in an organization. As an example, an IT manager relies upon his or her technical and interpersonal skills at work. Nurses use their medical, organizational, and listening skills to finish their daily tasks. To answer this question with regard to your desired career, you may need to go to your library or campus career center to research this information. (It takes time, but given the importance of choosing a career, it’s worth it!)

3. What skills do you currently have that could transfer to a future career?  Think about the skills and knowledge base you’ve acquired as you’ve completed your coursework, especially that which you’ve addressed within your major. For example, if you’re a business major, you are gaining skills such as finance, management, and leadership that can apply to a variety of careers. Likewise, if you’re majoring in English, you have picked up analytical and written communication skills. And in many courses, you completed projects that involved teamwork, creativity, and presentation skills. You can also take previous job or volunteer experience into account. Even if that job has nothing to do with the role you eventually desire to have, you’ve undoubtedly picked up skills and experience that can apply. Were you one of the lifeguards at the local pool? Among other things, you’ve learned how to work on a team, and you likely developed some problem-solving skills as well. Did you volunteer as the president of a speech club? You’ve picked up leadership and communication skills. Think through your experiences, and note the skills that work in your desired profession. (Fabricant et al., 108, 123)

Reference: Fabricant, Francine, Jennifer Miller, and Debra J. Stark. 2014. Creating Career Success: A Flexible Plan for the World of WorkBoston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

If a student is hoping to develop additional skills that transfer to their future careers, how can they go about doing so? Share your ideas and recommendations in the comments section below.