The days ahead are just what you've been waiting for since the day you stepped into secondary school. Uni! So you've done your hard work, selected a top university to study at and have become an undergraduate.
You've chosen your field of study; whether it be History or Physics, it's what you're interested in and you're eager to hit the books.
There's just one thing - in the back of your head (and in your parents' kitchen) you can't help but hear 'what in the world can anyone do with this degree?! 'I love History but it doesn't seem to lead to any lucrative prospects, or any prospects at all for that matter.' Don't panic; opportunities are there and many recruiters don't discriminate. What often counts is that the skills you've obtained during your university studies are applicable to a wide range of industries and jobs. Transferable skills are exactly that - skills that can be transferred!
According to a study conducted by the University of Sheffield, the top attributes recruiters seek in a new graduate are: oral communication, teamwork, enthusiasm, motivation, initiative, leadership, commitment, interpersonal skills, and foreign language competence. And you thought your BA in English will serve no purpose! The top skills listed can be learned in a wide range of courses, and can be applied to an even wider range of careers.
What is a Transferable Skill?
According to Carnegie Mellon University, 'Transferable Skills are non-job specific skills which can be used in different occupations. You may have developed them through course work, jobs, internships, volunteering, or just plain life experience. By communicating your transferable skills effectively, you can enhance your marketability and open yourself up to a larger sector of the job market.' Critical thinking skills, communication skills, the ability to prioritize to meet tight deadlines, leadership and problem-solving skills are a few of the many skills you will learn at university, and are not job-specific.
You may have been told by many that Arts degrees are useless because they don't lead to a specific career like Accounting or Nursing. Not true. Skills like channelling creativity, essay writing, and public speaking which you may acquire from your undergraduate studies are essential skills for a great number of positions.
How do I identify a Transferable Skill?
It's a competitive world out there. When you have a few minutes to spare sit down and think of all the skills you have acquired thus far at university. A good way to identify said skills is to list your achievements. Keep in mind that while academics are important, skills you've picked up in other aspects of your life at uni can be just as useful. You may have created a student snowboard group or become a spokesperson for campus recycling. Such activities provide organizational and leadership skills that top recruiters place a lot of value on. Things like learning how to use specific software and researching facts and figures for an essay are excellent examples of transferable skills with high mobility. Even if you think a particular skill isn't noteworthy, take account of it. Make a list of your skills and think of how you can apply these entities to certain jobs you may be interested in.
How do I 'sell' my Transferable Skills?
When the time comes to start thinking about career options, take a look at the job market; visit job advertisement sites and make contact with recruiters at companies you are interested in; visit job fairs and your university's career centre. Find out what specific characteristics recruiters are looking for and relate these characteristics to your own. Do you have these attributes the employer seeks? If so, make sure to communicate them to the recruiter. If you have achieved leadership status, make sure to include in your CV and cover letter how you achieved this and how such a skill can be applied to the position you want. Take mental note of the attributes you share with the desired ones so when you find yourself in an interview you can easily and naturally access and convey them.
Research skills learned through collecting data for a Sociology paper can be used in a Marketing position where statistics are key to developing a Marketing plan.
Teamwork and communication skills learned through working with a team in a Business class to create an advertisement can be applied to almost any job that requires teamwork - restaurant management and client relations are two good examples.
Leadership skills learned through involvement with a student club are essential to many careers, including teaching, human resource positions, and business development.