Making a career change? Upgrading your professional image? Have a less-than-perfect work history? If so, highlight the transferable skills that speak to your future, not your past. Here are four ways to make transferable skills on a resume pop.
1. Create skill headings in your Summary section.
Pick the two strongest skills that support your job objective. Use those skills as subheadings to introduce each of two short paragraphs in your Summary section near the top of your resume.
For example, if you’re going for a job as a technical writer, your Summary section might look like this:
SUMMARY OF QUALIFICATIONS
Writing: Nine years as a writer for magazines including The New Yorker and Wired. Recent experience as a technical writer and blogger for Google.
Technical: Versatile with technical concepts, language, and functionality. Hands-on experience building websites that included subscription and shopping cart functions.
2. List transferable skills on your resume in a special section
Create a Skills section, in which you list skills and/or knowledge-sets that are relevant to your job objective. If you have more than ten transferable skills on your list within your Skills section, consider dividing them into either:
- Two or more columns (best for people with lengthy detailed skillsets)
- Logical groups (best for technology related professions like programming/coding)
3. Use the Combination Resume Format.
The combination resume is a chronological format that uses skill subheading under each job title to organize accomplishment statements from that job. This format is widely appreciated by recruiters and employers.
To understand how combination resumes highlight the job seekers’ transferable skills, check out my sample combination resumes.
4. Use the Functional Resume Format.
If you have a really checkered work history (lots of job hopping, employment gaps, or overlapping jobs that look confusing when listed on your resume), or you’re making an extreme career change (let’s say you’re a dental hygienist seeking a job as an electrician), consider using the functional resume format.
^This format highlights two transferable skills in the body of the resume, and downplays the work history by placing it concisely at the bottom of the page.
Although the functional resume is not popular among employers, it may be the best solution for those with really difficult work histories.
In addition to showcasing your transferable skills on a resume, remember to mention them in your cover letter / email when appropriate.
Free Transferable Skills Checklist Download
If you are in the early stages of writing your resume, or you are just looking to give your old resume an overhaul then refreshing your “transferable skillsets” might be worth considering.
Below is a list of highly-transferable skills, the types of skills that will be useful in transitioning careers in particular.
You can download/bookmark/save the list in Google Docs here.
These skills are also useful for recent graduates and applicants without much previous work experience as the skills themselves can be sourced from non-traditional employment types such as internships, work-study, part-time jobs and other work-centric extracurricular activities.
If you are struggling to find impactful, attention-grabbing skills that are relevant to your educational background or your professional experience than the Career OneStop’s skills identifier resources are an excellent place to get some new ideas.
When to use transferable skills vs. specific “hard” skills
Remember, these skills are more vague precisely because they are not specialized. They are to help transfer jobs/careers.
You still should focus on including a highly specific, industry-relevant additional skills section on your resume if you want to stand out as the perfectly equipped candidate for the job. We have an in-depth guide to writing additional skills sections here.
If you are applying for a specific industry job, say app development, and instead of listing the programming languages you know you list only transferable skills the reader of your resume will have no idea whether you are technically qualified enough to perform the job functions of the position being applied to.
However if you are looking to move from programming into another industry, say engineering, or marketing, then mixing in some more generic transferable skills, such as those listed above, with a sprinkling of more technical skills will create a more adaptive yet targeted resume.