Identify Transferable Skills

Non-Academic Careers

Target an Industry
 

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Are you looking to leverage your advanced degree to land a non-academic job? Explore further to translate the skills and knowledge you have gained from your program and pursue a variety of in-demand careers within industry.

Use this page to get familiar with relevant strategies, transferable skills, and additional resources to support your plans.

Identify Transferable Skills

What Employers Want 

It is important to understand what employers are looking for so you can better articulate how your skills and experience fit their needs. Here are a few highlighted skills from the Chronicle of Higher Education Job Advice article and NACE’s attributes they see on candidates resumes:

  • Demonstrate that you are lifelong learner
  • Know how to have a career conversation and talk about your interests and goals
  • Show you know more than technical information- know how to collaborate and solve complex problems 
  • Know how to be critical thinkers and adaptive leaders

Learn More 

Do not merely take our word for it — talk with people who are doing jobs that interest you. Read our Making Connections page for more information.


 

Understanding Transferable Skills

Transferable skills are defined as non-specific skills that can be applied to many professional contexts. You can gain these skills through everyday activities in graduate school (e.g. researching, writing or public speaking) as well as previous experiences (e.g. hobbies, prior jobs or educational experiences). These skills are just as important to showcase in your resume as your technical skills, as most employers will be looking for candidates who have both.

There is generally one main hurdle that graduate students must overcome when seeking employment beyond academia: adequately portraying all the skills acquired in their higher education programs. When you are surrounded by people with similar qualifications, there is an inherent understanding and a common lingo. This can make it difficult to identify and discuss the skills you have acquired in graduate school. It is your responsibility to depict these skills to your potential employer and discuss how they make you a strong candidate for the position.

 
 
Examples of Transferable Skills

Below is a list of transferable skills that many graduate students gain in school. Think about what skills may apply to you. Use this list to inspire new ideas and ways of thinking about your talents. You can also use it to identify skills you want to enhance or develop.

  • Working with small groups of people efficiently
  • Engaging frequently in group discussions to collaborate on shared projects
  • Interacting with various levels of personnel including students, faculty, and staff
  • Creating and maintaining relationships with vendors/community members
     
  • Establishing groups and leading meetings to ensure progress towards project completion
  • Advising 10 students and offering ongoing feedback and supervision of their work
  • Managing a multi year-long project from beginning to end
  • Providing leadership to a complex research project and maintaining momentum in order to ensure appropriate deadlines and goals were met
     
  • Identifying problems and creating a systematic way to address concerns
  • Locating multiple sources of information related to a specific problem
  • Synthesizing research/data/theory to show evidence of problem and current state of affairs
  • Reporting complex research into succinct, manageable reports that convey complex ideas
  • Setting up and managing a lab with the following equipment/processes (list examples)
     
  • Delivering complex and technical information into basic terms to disseminate to a group of people
  • Organizing intricate ideas into well-crafted and engaging presentations
  • Speaking comfortably in front of large crowds of people
     
  • Developing surveys and analyzing incoming data
  • Understanding, managing, and analyzing large amounts of data
  • Working independently on self-directed projects
     
  • Compiling various lengths of papers, from brief memos and abstracts to long manuscripts and reports
  • Locating funds, writing grant proposals, and securing grant funding
  • Utilizing papers to craft strong arguments and eloquently communicate ideas
     
  • Achieving success in a highly competitive environment
  • Attending to details and following through on project deadlines
  • Establishing positive relationships in a bureaucratic environment
  • Comprehending new material, developing opinions, and identifying potential solutions
     

Incorporating Transferable Skills onto Your Resume 

In your resume, you want to be able to succinctly highlight the salient skills that you have gained in graduate school that go beyond academic signifiers of success. When put on a resume, transferable skills need to appeal to employer’s interests and highlight relevant skills from the job ad. Below are examples for how to turn a graduate task into a transferable skill on your resume. 


Learn More   

For more tips on how to write your resume, visit our Resumes page.


 

Example 1  

Ph.D. Accomplishment: Teaching Assistant for upper-level religious studies course

 

Step 1: Identify tasks on your CV: preparing lesson plans, gathering information and organizing slides, lecturing a class of 50-100 students weekly, grading papers, answering student questions and concerns

Step 2: Identify transferable skills: organizational ability, planning and scheduling, strong public speaking skills, ability to translate difficult concepts to a wide-audience, utilize diplomacy in managing conflict, interpersonal skills and supervisory skills

Step 3: Turn info bullets using action verbs for the resume:

  • Developed and planned complex material in the field of religious discourse
  • Presented to a room of 50-100 students with various levels of understanding
  • Mentored students on writing and research projects, and evaluated student performance
  • Exercised public speaking skills and provided engaging presentations to a diverse audience
  • Managed course room policies, enforced necessary procedures, and utilized diplomacy in managing conflict around personnel issues

 

Example 2  

Ph.D. Accomplishment: Managing lab assistants during a biology research project

 

Step 1: Identify tasks on your CV: supervising 3-5 undergrad lab assistants, designing experiments, creating a lab protocol, caring for lab equipment, recording measurements and tracking results, analyzing data

Step 2: Identify transferable skills: management and supervisory skills, project management and coordination to ensure completion of progress by specific deadlines, attention to detail, complex problem solving, analytic skills

Step 3: Turn into bullets using action verbs for the resume:

  • Supervised and managed 3-5 lab assistants in a life sciences lab while ensuring safety of all participants
  • Led review sessions and clarified difficult concepts to ~5 students on research goals
  • Developed lab protocols, recorded detailed notes of daily lab work, and utilized problem solving skills to ensure integrity of multi-year long research project
  • Provided project management to ensure completion of deadlines, resulting in a 20-page technical report, which is currently pending for publication