A common question posed by clients is “How can I determine what are my transferable skills?”

It’s a good question, but emanates from what is often a mistaken belief that a crisp articulation of transferable skills will qualify a job applicant for consideration. Unfortunately, in most instances that’s simply not the case.

What are some of the most commonly sought transferable skills? Here’s a list of some of the most common of them:

  1. Project management
  2. Ability to effectively communicate in writing and orally
  3. Time management
  4. Multitasking
  5. Attention to detail
  6. Organization
  7. Training
  8. Teamwork
  9. Technological literacy
  10. Public speaking
  11. Analysis/Research

Most of these skills are primarily functions that have been fulfilled in previous jobs. What’s more important to prospective employers is the degree to which an applicant has made something happen. So, rather than transferable skills I recommend that you think instead about transferable impact, and the skills that are able to demonstrate what effect you’ve had. Skills that lend themselves more readily to illustrating impact are, for example:

  1. Leadership
  2. Problem solving
  3. Motivating others
  4. Creativity
  5. Initiative

If you’re applying for a job that demands some of these skills you will of course need to illustrate them on a resume and in an interview with specific examples. But employers are generally reluctant to gamble on transfer-ability; they are much more comfortable with direct evidence of skills and accomplishments that have been demonstrated in settings, situations, and applied to problems that are likely to be encountered in the new job. This evidence is very difficult to communicate in a resume.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because YOU know you can do a job that you want to land, an employer can easily be convinced of that if you don’t have very clearly related experience. And even if you do, again impact trumps experience.

If you are not able to cite directly applicable experience it becomes particularly important to use connections who can vouch for your ability to make a difference. Think about the people you’ve worked for and with who are familiar with your accomplishments, and then ask them to introduce you to (ideally) decision makers when it comes to hiring, or at least to people in an organization for which you’re interested in working. Strong personal recommendations will open doors for you that a resume submitted online simply won’t.