Why transferable skills are more important than ever

In a world where entire industries are being disrupted and many of us will be working for companies that don’t exist yet, in roles that haven’t been created, transferable skills are more vital than ever.

In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, 65% of today’s primary school students will work in completely new types of jobs.  Andrea Cox, career coach at Cox Career Coaching, highlights four essential transferable skills you need to develop to be ready for an increasingly flexible marketplace:

  1. Data mining and interpretation skills – extracting and interpreting complex data and, crucially, being able to explain it to others
  2. Interpersonal skills – teamwork, coaching others to perform better and being able to quickly understand clients’ needs
  3. Creativity – thinking of new ideas and taking new approaches to solving problems
  4. Online networking skills – having a solid presence on platforms like LinkedIn to help recruiters (and their software) find you

Employers will value skills that differentiate employees most from computers; namely creativity, critical thinking and interpersonal skills,” says Cox. “Additionally, anyone with experience of the agile project management (an approach which emphasises rapid experimentation) will be very employable.”

And more obviously are the oft-mentioned communication, collaboration and team work, leadership and problem solving skills, which employers frequently cite as being ever more important and desirable, but persistently difficult to find.

“Our Hays Skills Capability Gap report found that only 35% of accountancy and finance professionals were actually taking steps to proactively develop their communication skills,” says Karen Young, director at Hays Accountancy & Finance. “Similarly only 33% were trying to develop their leadership skills, 27% had taken steps to improve their problem solving skills and only 20% had taken steps to improve their collaboration and teamwork skills, despite 44% of UK employers stating this would be critical to their organisations future success.”

There is currently a significant skills shortage in accountancy and finance. New technology, economic and political pressures, and transformational business trends mean new skills will be in constant demand. “Organisations are finding it harder to retain and attract top talent, so there has never been a more crucial time to ensure you have the skills employers are looking for. It is no longer enough to have good technical accounting knowledge, as soft skills and other acquired skills are now also recognised as a crucial aspect to an organisations future success,” says Young.

How do you increase your value?

“Take responsibility of your career and make every effort on your part to stay up-to-date with the skills employers need,” says Young. “Stay commercially aware by attending industry events, stay on top of industry news and changes in legislation, undertake additional qualifications that could be beneficial to your career and see if you can undertake any training either in-house or by an external provider.

“Remember to work on improving your soft skills and competencies, as well as your acquired technical skills. Our Capability Gap report found that there were significant differences in the views of employers and employees around skills proficiency, so if you are unsure you can also speak to your manager and get feedback on where your soft skills are lacking and can ask for training and development. This will be of value to you in your current job, but also when going for promotion or seeking a new role.”

“Become familiar with the new accounting cloud technologies in your organisation (e.g. Xero, SAP, Quickbooks) and train staff in how to use them to save your employer time and money,” says Cox. ‘Rather than wait for your employer to send you on a course, find one that’s relevant and ask to be sent on it or do an online course to upskill yourself.”

How can you prove your transferrable skills?

While you should always tailor your CV to individual job applications, it is important to emphasise your transferable skills, with relevant and discernible examples, recommends Young. “Employers will be looking for key words and phrases on your CV that demonstrate how your transferable skills are relevant to the job you are applying for and you should always avoid using clichéd buzzwords or jargon. Your CV should be a summary of your best accomplishments and most relevant skills. Not all the information is necessary for every job, use what is applicable to the job description and person profile.”

Cox recommends continuously logging your skills by gathering evidence and proof. “Measure the quantitative impact of your work at least quarterly,” says Cox. “Be ready to think creatively in team meetings and in projects. That might mean taking time to cultivate your own creativity – but it will be worth it. Build up a bank of case studies where you can show how your fresh approach has led to success for your employer.”

Neil Johnson is a freelance business journalist who contributes regularly to trade publications and member organisations, covering employability, recruitment, business trends and industrial analysis.

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