You’ve got AAT qualifications. And you’ve plenty of relevant work experience. So what can you to do boost your chances of getting the role you really want?
It’s time to examine what transferable skills you have – and which ones employers really want.
What are transferable skills?
These are the skills which aren’t job specific, but are ones that are desired by employers for many jobs and industries such as leadership or communication skills. You might have picked up transferable skills at home or through other activities or experiences as well as through work.
Key takeaway: Transferable skills can be picked up at work and outside.
Why are they useful?
Transferable skills are useful when you apply for a new position which you might not be an obvious fit for or one in a new industry. Lee Owen, Director at Hays Accountancy & Finance says: “They enable you to move smoothly across different roles and sectors allowing you to develop a breadth of experience throughout the career.
Today’s professionals can expect to have a number of different careers as the retirement age grows higher, so having this flexibility to explore different career paths will hold you in good stead throughout your working life”.
Key takeaway: Transferable skills will allow you to move between industries, sectors and jobs easier
What they don’t replace
Transferable skills don’t replace qualifications and relevant experience. Technical computer skills will also be essential for many such roles. Bradley Glen, Operating Director of recruitment consultants Page Personnel said: “You will find that some skills are specific to the company concerned or the role. However, other skills can be used in every role and such transferable skills will develop throughout your career”.
Key takeaway: All the transferable skills in the world won’t replace good qualifications and work experience.
Accountancy and bookkeeping special skills
What are the transferable skills employers want for bookkeepers and accountants? Owen says: “A natural aptitude for numeracy and accuracy is crucial particularly for those working closely with business. Also modern day accountants with a strong appreciation for IT and business intelligence tools are in demand in order to present financial information quickly and in an easy to use format”.
What are your transferable skills?
“Identify what your transferable skills are and how you can improve them” says Glen. “Doing so will improve your chances of climbing the career ladder”. Think about what your current job entails. For example, do you oversee other colleagues?
If so, you have training skills. Or maybe you’re in charge of forward planning. You’re an organiser: a useful skill regardless of the industry sector you want to work in. The ability to work as part of a team is a desired transferable skill for many roles
“Strong communication, effective organisation and a willingness to learn are transferable skills accountancy candidates ought to be equipped with” says Lee Owen, Director at Hays Accountancy & Finance. And you might have gleaned communication skills from outside work activities: if you run a club then you’re probably a great communicator.
There’s no point in just saying in an interview or application that you have such and such transferable skill. You need to back it up with real examples. For example, point to when your negotiating skills worked in moving a project forward.
Key takeaway: You need evidence of your transferable skills: just saying you have such and such a skill is not enough.
Leadership skills will be desired for many roles. Glen says: “An effective leader takes responsibility and also knows which tasks to delegate. You don’t have to be in a senior position to have leadership responsibilities – volunteer to manage projects and others even early in your career and that will impress interviewers”.
What’s your problem?
Think about the difficult situations you’ve faced in your current work: how did you solve it? Employers will want to know about problem solving skills. Again, make sure you have the evidence (rehearse in advance if you’re being interviewed) and point to it.
Reading between the lines
How do you decode job specifications to find what transferable skills are desired? Some are obvious – a “flexible outlook” means you should demonstrate times in your current or past jobs where you’ve gone beyond the job description or normal office hours. Owen adds:
“Look out for phrases like ‘organised’, ‘attentive to detail’ and ‘able to work in a team’. This is where you can draw on your transferable and soft skills to demonstrate that you are a strong candidate for the role”.
Make sure that when you apply for a job you refer first to the transferable skills relevant for that post. And, says Owen, “Rather than just listing your transferable skills, explain how you built each skill and how you use it in your current role or study”.
Key takeaway: Read the job spec carefully: it will contain lots of clues as to what transferable skills the employer is looking for. Emphasise the most relevant skills for the job description.
You have transferable skills: just find what they are. Analyse what you do in a typical workday and you’ll detect some. Don’t forget skills gleaned from outside work activities.
Do remember that just saying you have a skill isn’t enough: think of practical examples where you’ve demonstrated such a skill. Don’t forget qualifications and work experience: they are the most important things to would-be employers.
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Charlotte Beugge spent more than 20 years as the deputy personal finance editor on The Daily Telegraph and then The Daily Mail. A freelancer since 2010, her work has appeared in national newspapers, magazines and websites.