Developing and Demonstrating Technical Transferable Skills

Published: Tues., Oct. 1, 2019

While the primary purpose of graduate education is to impart advanced, specialized knowledge within your academic field, graduate school also provides the opportunity for you develop analytical and technical skills that can be applied to work you may do in academia, industry, business, or government. These skills – referred to as transferable skills – are those that you develop in one area that are useful across all professions and settings. This article will help you think about some of the technical and specialized transferable skills you’ve developed in graduate school.  In two weeks, we’ll address the different types of interpersonal skills future employers will be interested in.

Reflect on the work you’ve done as a graduate student: mastering course content, conducting research, preparing laboratory experiments or lectures, teaching classes, or writing papers, articles, or a dissertation. What skills have you developed as a result of these experiences that could be valuable in another setting? Examples of such skills may include:

  • Making decisions and solving problems
  • Planning, conceptualizing, organizing, and prioritizing
  • Accessing and processing information
    • Think about how you found articles for your literature review or how you searched for the resources needed to solve a problem.  How you find and make sense of all of those resources and ideas?  Finding and making sense of complex information is a skill that is used in most professions.
  • Analyzing quantitative/qualitative data
  • Having technical knowledge related to the job
    • Think about the machine and techniques you regularly use in the lab or research setting?  Do you know how to use a specific tool or machine in your field? Show it, not everyone may have those skills.
  • Proficiency with computer software programs
    • Coding is becoming an increasingly valuable skill.  Do you use Python, R, SAS, MATLAB, or another software where you code?  Specialty computer programs and knowledge of how to use them is not something all applicants may have, use this expertise to your advantage.

  • Creating and/or editing written reports
    • Graduate students do a lot of writing: articles for publications, class papers, and research reports to name a few.  Your writing skills an asset.  Many non-academic careers require writing reports, press releases for the public, or other types of articles and if you can show you know how to write a lot and well, that can be a benefit.
  • Forming an argument/providing supportive details
  • Organizing/managing data
    • How did you organize your dissertation or thesis research data?  You likely used citation managers and other data organization systems.  Being able to talk about how you organized complex data shows you can handle other similar amounts of data in their labs or offices.

  • Managing projects
  • Setting goals and objectives

You’ll notice that you may possess many of these skills as a result of your experiences as a graduate student. For example, if you have teaching experience, you’re able to explain difficult concepts, create written and oral presentations, motivate students, and evaluate performance. Writing a thesis or dissertation requires setting goals, prioritizing, and managing time, identifying and organizing resources, and analyzing data.

When considering a profession, search job listings for a position you want and compare the skills they’re looking for with the skills you have. Which of these skills do you not yet possess? Which could be developed further? Create an Individual Development Plan (IDP) to help you acquire those skills while in graduate school. Graduate Studies will offer a workshop on developing an IDP at the end of October, where we will unveil a newly updated model and help you understand how to get the most out of this valuable tool.  

Once you’ve begun your job search, review postings to determine which transferable skills should be emphasized. Highlight transferable skills in your CV/resume and cover letters by using effective action verbs. In interviews, use examples of when you’ve successfully utilized transferable skills in specific situations. Demonstrate to an employer that you’ve developed the necessary skills for the position – regardless of the level of technical expertise you may possess.

If you’d like help preparing your CV/resume or cover letter to highlight your transferable skills, utilize Graduate Studies’ Consultation Services, which offers in-person consultations, as well as electronic reviews of job search documents.