How do you position yourself for the modern world of work?
A transferable skill is an ability or expertise that you can take from job to job. There are many transferable skills but here we focus on four which are key to developing your career, they are: communication, problem solving, teamwork and flexibility.
Transferable skills are important simply for that reason; they are not linked to any one particular job or industry and so they can help you when you want to move from one job to another or one industry to another. They are valuable to a wide range of employers because they have a lot of uses in the workplace. Focusing on job-specific skills is important because it will make you more valuable to your current employer, or for similar roles. Developing your transferable skills will mean that you can move between functions and roles and even change industry.
So how can you develop these four core skills?
It seems rather obvious to say it but best the way to develop your spoken communication skills is to practise listening and speaking. It starts with one to one conversations and goes all the way up to addressing large groups. In most workplaces you have the opportunity to develop the ways you communicate with groups of different sizes However you should make a real effort particularly when you are participating in meetings. Being able to speak clearly and concisely in a meeting is something that gets noticed by management so it has that added benefit. Having strong communication skills is a requirement for numerous positions, and generally it is a requirement for all senior positions. Nobody needs a senior manager who cannot communicate well!
Developing your written communication skills is less straightforward but it is pretty much given that good writers are also good readers reading more is the key strategy here.
In practical terms, it is important to always keep communication as a priority. Always use the simplest way of communicating and focus on staying on message.
Outside the workplace, it is a good idea to practice ‘brain training’ exercises, these are a useful way to exercise your mind and practice problem solving. Other simple exercises include Sudoku and chess, even wordsearches develop active thinking skills. At the same time be aware that active exercises like these, and reading, are beneficial whereas passive things – like watching TV and video do not exercise the mind in a useful way. Always seek out things which make your brain active rather than passive. A good way to tell the difference is that when you stop doing an active type of task it stops, whereas if you are passive whatever it is – like video – keeps on going.
In the workplace you should always pay particular attention to the ways that you work with those around you. When you have opportunities to work with your others make the most of them and use them to develop your communication and leadership skills. Teamwork is a feature of a lot of jobs so get used to working comfortably in a team. Train yourself to never work to dominate the team in a bad way and always focus on ways you can learn from working as part of a team.
The labour market is constantly changing so people who wish to develop their skills for the future must always be prepared to change. Employers value people who are open to change, and in fact who accept changes easily – that can mean changes in the workplace itself, changes in the way things are done in the organisation or changes in particular roles and functions. An inflexible person will be seen as a burden or cost to the organisation but a flexible person is always seen as an asset.
So how do you develop flexibility in your thinking and approach to things? Lots has been written about how to develop mental flexibility but there are a few simple tricks which you can use to grow this skill. These include:
Take a break, when you change the context of your thinking you change the way you think
Try something new, your brain likes new things so by learning a new skill you strengthen it
Question your own thoughts and words, this way you can identify words and thoughts which are not helping you and replace them with positive ones.
A flexible thinker is prepared for changing goals and that is exactly what many employers need to keep the company competitive.
Spending some time to focus on your transferable skills and then putting real effort into developing them will make you a much stronger candidate when you come to moving to a better job simply because people with transferable skills have more opportunities.