The Power of Transferable Skills

You’re in an interview – Your palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy. This common response to being interviewed is also known as nervousness. It’s science!  In 14 Tips For Staying Calm During A Job Interview, Dr. Tamar Chansky explains that our brains respond the same way in an interview as they would in a fight or flight experience. To our brain, an interview is perceived as a high stakes situation, producing the common reactions you feel during an interview.  So as a graduate student interviewing for an internship position in PRA’s communications department, you can say I was in fight or flight mode.

One question I was asked that particularly evoked nervousness was, “As a student studying Counseling and Community Psychology, how does your program relate to the communications intern position you are interviewing for?” While psychology is very different from communications and marketing, I’ve learned that skills from one position to the other are often transferable . My answer began with skills obtained through managing social media accounts for non-profit organizations, writing and editing, and data analysis and examination through research. The answer came easier than expected since psychology is the science of behavior, and general psychology education is the groundwork for human services.

What exactly are transferable skills?

These are learned skills that can be transferred between professions.  For example, if you were once a server at a restaurant you have transferable skills, such as assisting others, multitasking, time management, and resolving conflicts. Any skill that you have obtained through a previous job is important to your work experience; Princeton University’s Career Services provides a great overview of skills you may have.

Throughout my higher education I have found that while an official title may vary, there are a multitude of skills gained that are universal to other positions. For a student searching for an internship or an individual searching for an entry level position in their field of choice, what matters is getting your foot in the door. But those entry-level steps may seem out of order if you just recently graduated with a degree; we’re told get an education and then you get your job. That timeline is not always realistic – so start from the bottom up. Apply to a position that is within your field of passion and within your realm of experience, and let the power of transferable skills build your resume. As for me, I am gaining more experience in analytics and Excel, and am gaining a basic understanding of section 508 compliance; all of which will aid my career in research and communication.

Intern Perspective

The views expressed by the blog post author are their own and do not necessarily represent the official views of Policy Research Associates, Inc.

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