With the global pandemic still going on, it has been more challenging for students and graduates to secure work experience. Many placements were cancelled, delayed, or moved online, part-time work is more competitive and many volunteering opportunities have been put on hold.
This has made it much more difficult for students and graduates to stand out from the crowd when applying for graduate roles. Without being able to add work experience, voluntary placements, or industry projects to your CV, how can you show that you have the skills for the job?
That’s where the importance of transferable skills, or soft skills, comes in. Transferrable skills have always been vital to graduate employers as they provide a key insight into how you will perform at work, communicate with your team, deal with pressures, and much more.
You don’t need to have completed work experience or industry placements to showcase your transferrable skills, you will already naturally possess a certain set of soft skills, or have developed them through your time at university, social situations and life experiences.
Graduate employers know that many potential candidates will not have the same work experience opportunities as usual, so it’s important to know how to capitalise on your transferrable skills.
What are transferable skills?
Let’s start by defining exactly what transferrable skills are. They can be defined as various abilities, knowledge, and behaviours that can apply to any type of work. For example, problem solving, working well in a team, strategic thinking, communication skills, ability to learn quickly, and so on.
Many of these skills are learnt in day-to-day life, during education, and in previous work experiences. They are known as transferable skills because they are related to general work habits and your attitude toward co-workers, clients, and managers.
So, even if you haven’t secured any work experience specific to the role you are applying for, you can still use examples from previous work scenarios in which you demonstrated a transferrable skill well. They are skills that are adaptable and flexible, which you can use in any professional setting.
Let’s take a look at some of the key transferrable skills employers are looking for…
First up is communication. Having the ability to communicate well at work can help you to become successful in any work environment. Clearly communicating can help you form connections with co-workers, set clear expectations with managers, and perform well when dealing with clients and stakeholders. Each company will use different forms of communication depending on the type of work and the working environment, so this adaptable skill is important.
With many companies now moving more towards remote working and flexible time in the office, having strong communication skills is very important to employers. To showcase this transferable skill during job applications and interviews, you need to show evidence of times where you have used strong communication to your advantage. For example, you could talk about a group project you worked on at university, a successful way you communicated to a colleague in a previous job, or anything you can think of that shows you are a good communicator. It doesn’t matter if the role, project, or situation is not directly linked to the job you are applying for, it is the skills that employers are looking for.
In the past two years, employers have been faced with unexpected challenges and problems due to the pandemic. This has meant that many companies are looking to fresh, new talent who are able to deal with changes and find solutions to complex problems.
However, if you are a student or graduate looking to start work in a STEM industry, the ability to problem solve is one of the key transferable skills that employers look for in general. Demonstrating creative problem-solving skills can make you an asset in any situation, and gives employers a strong argument for employing you. From technical careers to administrative roles, sales, and service-orientated jobs, they all require candidates to effectively solve problems and overcome obstacles in the workplace.
To show you can problem solve, explain how you have dealt with problems in the past and describe what you learnt from the experience. You need to prove that you can turn a problem on its head and deliver a successful outcome, this will help you stand out from the crowd on applications and during interviews. It’s also good to have a few scenarios ready, as in a lot of interviews you may be asked to solve a hypothetical problem for an exercise.
Being able to work well with others on projects and collaborate with your team is an invaluable skill that employers look for. Big challenges are rarely solved by individuals, especially in jobs within STEM industries.
Working well with others can not only improve your quality of work, but also the productivity of the whole team. Employers want to see candidates who are willing to compromise to produce great work with their team, and show they have the ability to innovate with others in any situation.
The best way to demonstrate this transferrable skill is to talk about a past group project you have worked on, perhaps at university, and really highlight how you collaborated with other members of the team to get the very best results.
Critical thinking is a key transferrable skill if you are looking to go into a STEM industry, especially technology. The ability to analyse information, evaluate, reflect, think of new ideas and creative solutions are all impressive assets to demonstrate to employers.
Many graduate interviews will involve a test or interview question that will evaluate your critical thinking, so it’s a good idea to practice thinking in this way and come up with a few examples. Employers are looking for candidates who can solve a problem and have honed their critical thinking to make the best possible decision. During university and school, you will have been faced with several problems that you can use as examples. You must demonstrate how you define and approach problems from different viewpoints, analyse the possible outcomes and solutions and decide which option is the best to take.
Another key transferrable skill that employers are looking for is creativity. Even in technical roles, the ability to think creatively is extremely beneficial. Come up with a number of new ideas and creative outcomes to problems and situations to show that you can be creative. In STEM, mistakes and failed attempts are positive experiences, they can offer opportunities for deeper learning.
Willingness to learn and curiosity
Employers know that when you have just graduated, you won’t have all the technical and workplace knowledge you need for certain roles. However, what is important is that you show them you are willing to learn new skills and you are curious and enthusiastic about the industry and the role. Employers want to see candidates asking questions and using their new knowledge to propose new ideas and make decisions.
If you can show you are a fast learner, employers will trust you to use your initiative to motivate yourself to improve and grow into your role. People who are willing to learn and show initiative are often successful regardless of the industry they choose to work in.
You can demonstrate this by using a past role, even if it was just a part time job in a shop, or perhaps a project you worked on in your spare time in which you learnt new skills quickly.
Organisation and time management
Organisation and time management are key transferrable skills for any role. Many companies will work to deadlines and expect their staff to finish their work on time and in an organised fashion.
If you have successfully completed your degree, you can easy show that you are organised and can meet deadlines by highlighting how you completed coursework and projects on time. You may also want to highlight a time when you multitasked or helped a colleague or coursemate with their workload whilst still finishing your own tasks.
Lastly, one of the most important transferable skills for 2022 is positivity. Employers want to recruit people who can not only bring the right skills to the role, but also the right attitude. Can you inspire yourself even when you're working from home? Can you see the positives in difficult situations? If you're the type of person who can do this, ensure that you demonstrate it to employers.
STEM Women Events
Since 2018, we have held 43 inspiring face-to-face and virtual events, introducing over 20,000 attendees to 303 exhibiting graduate employers.
Our events allow attendees to network with a range of top employers, apply for exciting graduate roles and opportunities, hear talks from a range of representatives working in STEM, and get inspired to follow in their footsteps.