The complete guide to transferable skills
Transferable skills are qualities and abilities you possess that can be transferred from one job to another and may be useful across different roles and sectors. Many of these you will already have and will continue to develop throughout your career.
Transferable skills are important to employers of finance professionals, who seek people with hybrid skillsets that bring a blend of hard skills (teachable or quantifiable skills such as the ACCA Qualification, or a second language) and the more subjective soft and interpersonal skills (such as communication, leadership and adaptability).
Accountants and finance professionals are partnering more and more closely with different groups of people, such as clients, interdepartmental colleagues, senior management and project stakeholders. In this context, transferable skills are very valuable.
Transferable skills are useful for framing past experience when applying for a new role, especially if it’s in a different industry. So it pays to be aware of the skills you could transfer to a role you’re applying for, but also to know that not everyone’s transferable skillset is the same.
Examples of transferable skills
This is the ability to effectively communicate verbally, in writing or in any other medium. It’s also related to emotional intelligence and knowing when and how to ask questions, how to read body language and how to talk to people in different contexts. Strong communicators work well with others and in teams, and help maintain project momentum.
This is the ability to work with others to achieve a shared goal. It is effectively a combination of qualities like empathy, active listening, strong communication and emotional intelligence. Highlighting examples of teamwork during interviews is a great to show employers how you work with others and that you understand the importance of this quality to their organisation.
Being adaptable is an increasingly sought after quality among businesses and organisations operating in fast-moving environments where innovation, agility and flexibility are key to success. By proving that you’re able to continue performing amid change and disruption to teams, management, projects, product or markets will go a long way with employers. You can do this by highlighting how quickly you learn new skills and processes to maintain a high level of efficiency to deliver work quickly and with a positive attitude.
Proving that you were dependable and trustworthy while working with previous employers will go a long way with prospective ones. You can do this by showing that you’re punctual, well-organised and responsible. Such qualities are important if your ambition is to be trusted with managing client or stakeholder relationships, running projects and delivering goals.
Proving you can lead others is invaluable in any industry and means you’re capable of organising and leading teams to deliver shared goals. While leadership is a skill in itself, it is also a combination of some of the other transferable skills, such as being a good communicator, dependability, adaptability and being a strong relationship builder.
Emotional intelligence or EQ is understanding your emotions and being able to take into account the emotional needs of others. EQ provides a framework for understanding ourselves and managing relationships with others, in business and in life – it is therefore a very transferable skill and one employers recognise and seek. People with EQ show self awareness (the ability to recognise your own moods and emotions), self management (the ability to control emotions and moods), social awareness (ability to perceive emotions of others) and relationship management (when we understand how people feel, we can build and manage effective relationships).
The words creativity and accountancy have a chequered past, with creative accounting coming to signify corrupt practices – see the Enron or WorldCom scandals. However, creativity – having ideas, trying to innovate systems and processes or trying to find news ways to solve problems – is a good attribute for accountants facing the challenges of adapting to constantly changing environments and technology.
A well-organised person will generally work efficiently and by doing so make it easier for others to work with them. Being organised means meeting deadlines, setting goals and milestones, communicating with colleagues or clients in a timely manner and following instructions well.
This is very important in a network such as ACCA, where people rely on one another for professional support and advice. The ability to provide guidance to colleagues and other professionals is a welcome attribute for any company, which can benefit both culturally and materially from having employees that provide mentoring.
This is not only valuable to career professionals on an individual level but is a good skill to highlight to prospective employers, as it shows an ability to make connections and build relationships, a quality that can prove highly valuable in winning or retaining clients, for example.
As technology automates the accounting profession, creates more data and introduces new ways of working, accountants are increasingly leaving their spreadsheets to provide financial insight and strategic advice. This means communicating more frequently and working more closely with clients, stakeholders and management. Meanwhile, finance business partnering has become a fixture in many organisations. The role sees finance professionals working closely with other departments, providing ongoing financial insight, supporting business transformation, or helping to integrate systems and new technology.
Technology is transforming the accounting profession, so any modern and future accountant needs to be tech savvy. This can, but doesn’t necessarily, mean being able to read or write code, what is important is a comfortably learning new software and systems, understanding their importance to an organisation, being able to use them to add value and keeping an eye out for the latest innovations in accounting and finance technology.
Data mining and interpretation
Extracting and interpreting complex sets of data from various sources and then, crucially, being able to talk about and explain your findings to others, many of whom will not ‘speak’ finance, is a vital skill for accountants. It combines several other transferable skills, such as technological literacy, good communication and relationship building and management.
Other transferable skills:
Flexibility | Motivation | Patience | Persuasion | Time management | Work ethic
How to highlight your transferable skills
You can talk about transferable skills on your CV, cover letter and in interviews. The best way to do so is by reading a job description or advert closely to identify which of your transferable skills are most relevant.
Transferable skills on a CV
If you follow this downloadable CV template, you can include key transferable skills in the professional profile statement, the key skills list or in the career history bullet points.
In the skills list mention the most relevant and valuable transferable skills, alongside core learnt skills, such as commercial finance, management accounting, financial analysis, transformation, specific technologies etc.
Don’t overload the professional profile with transferable skills, but consider including the most valuable to the specific role you’re applying for and mention it within context.
For example, if you have strong leadership skills, you might write:
‘ACCA qualified accountant with four years’ experience leading finance transformation teams in multinational companies in several sectors.’
Similarly, in career history, it’s best not to directly spell out transferable skills, it’s far more powerful to describe several of the most relevant and distinguished accomplishments from a previous role. By doing so you will highlight the different skills required to achieve the goal.
‘Managed financial transformation project that overhauled systems and processes with a cloud-based software suite integrated across departments, including finance, sales and marketing, that located £X in potential costs-saving in the first year and provided new data to improve marketing strategy.’
From this an employer can assume that you used several different skills that will be useful to their business, such as leadership, relationship building, communication, data analysis/interpretation and technological literacy.
Transferable skills on a cover letter
Again referring to the job advert and description, hone in on one or two of your transferable skills the employer is looking for and highlight them within the body paragraphs.
‘While in my previous role as assistant accountant at [XXX], my duties quickly expanded to cover more client-focused responsibilities as part of the firm’s move to cloud-based accounting. Given my knowledge and experience with the latest accounting platforms, I was a key part of the transformation team, from research to implementation, when I spent a great deal of time supporting clients through onboarding.’
This shows that the candidate can work as part of a team to push a project to completion. It also shows they’re comfortable with technology and at building/maintaining valuable relationships. By describing your skills in the context of an achievement and experience you make it easier for the employer to see how you might fit into their organisation.
Transferable skills in a job interview
As in your CV and cover letter, you want to ‘show’ not ‘tell’ your skills, so provide specific stories that feature ‘skills in action’ to answer the interviewers questions.