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Intro to Transferable Skills for Students Starting their Career Path

October 29, 2021

As a student still in high school, it can be difficult to sell yourself on your resume or in an interview when you haven’t had much work experience. You might be thinking, what qualities can I...

As a student still in high school, it can be difficult to sell yourself on your resume or in an interview when you haven’t had much work experience. You might be thinking, what qualities can I present when the last job I had was delivering newspapers? Never think of experiences like these as wasted opportunities. There’s probably a lot of skills you gained from them that are very desirable to employers. Many of these are your transferable skills and they can be highly valuable.

Graphic depicting woman on left side handling money and food with cash register. Arrow and words

Transferable skills are simply put, any ability or expertise that can be used in a variety of roles or occupations. That newspaper job? You never skipped a day or missed a house when delivering, that’s dependability. It can apply to any aspect of your life too. Were you captain of the volleyball team? There’s teamwork and leadership right there. Maybe while in that role you were able to settle an issue between teammates, most employers will want to know if you have conflict resolution skills. Try to think of any volunteer opportunity, major classroom project or hobbies where you exhibited skills that an employer could be seeking.

These are a few of the many transferable skills that can be applicable to most jobs:

  • Willingness to learn

  • Communication

  • Patience

  • Cooperation

  • Active listening

  • Self-motivated

  • Responsibility

  • Integrity

There are great places where transferable skills can be learned when setting out towards your long term goals. A co-op placement can strengthen transferable skills while giving you the real world context where you can explain to employers how you used them. Similarly, while the main promise of programs like the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) are learning technical skills, the groundwork for success in an apprenticeship comes from an ability to strengthen one’s teamwork, communication skills and of course a deep sense of self-motivation. Volunteering on its own is a perfect way to build up these skills and the mere act of going above the minimum 40 hours of service is a self-evident way to show employers that you have dedication.

That is just an introduction to transferable skills. Once you have them they can ease the transition into different careers and open up doors to places you wouldn’t expect. Again, there are probably many of these skills that you already have, the only challenge left up to you is how to frame them in a way that is attractive to prospective employers. And always remember that even if a job is not where you see yourself in the future it can help you get there.

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