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Finding Transferrable Skills For Your Resume – With Examples

Every summer, I get calls from stressed out graduates (and their parents) asking me to help with their resume and potential transferrable skills – because they don’t even know where to start. This is what I hear:

“I don’t have any work experience. Well, except the part time barista job between semesters and during holidays. And, what good is that going to do me?”
“I don’t have any work experience AT ALL. I was too busy studying and going to class.”
“I worked all through college, but it had nothing to do with my major.”
“I was in food service. I can’t put that in my resume.”
“I need experience to get a job. But, I can’t get experience, unless someone gives me a job to get experience.”
“I’m doomed!”

All these statements are true. But, also, not true, especially the part about being doomed. (Also read: How American Collegiate Recovery Centers Are Taking On The Drug Epidemic)

Experience doesn’t just come from employment. Experience and, most importantly, transferrable skills can be obtained from various activities, including part time (seemingly unrelated) jobs, school projects, internships, externships, volunteerism, college clubs, fraternity and sorority events, workshops, seminars, and many other activities.

transferrable skills for resume

Antonio Guillem ©

What are transferrable skills?

Wikepedia defines a transferrable skill as “… an ability or expertise which may be used in a variety of roles or occupations.”

Employers are looking for experience and specific skills sets in YOU that transfer into YOU being able to do the essential functions of the job they are hiring for. How you communicate your skill sets in your resume is most important and, dare I say, not as important as how you got those skills.

Let’s take a Barista job as an example. In my town, there are Dutch Bros drive-throughs at every third corner. All of the barista are college students trying to earn some bucks in between classes. They are serving dozens of different drinks at two different windows, in close quarters with three to five other team members, providing excellent customer service, and marketing their products all at the same time. In addition, they are preparing large orders from telephone calls, leaving the building to take orders from cars further down the line, working with laptops to enter orders and generate tips, making sure there is enough inventory and keeping the place clean and in complete order for fast product processing.

Here are a few examples of how I might translate this experience into transferable skills in the resume, within an Areas of Experience section or the Professional Experience section:


Customer Service Order Processing Inventory Control/Supplies
Excellent Team Member Coordinating Production Product Marketing
Conflict Resolution Retail Opening/Closing Cash Reconciliation



CLIENT RELATIONS/BARISTA, Dutch Bros, Eugene, OR (2015 to Present) – Provided excellent customer service to hundreds of clients each day, working within a team setting. Additional responsibilities included, ordering processing, coordinating production, marketing new offerings to customers, daily opening and/or closing of retail operations, cash reconciliation, and resolving order issues on an hourly basis.

See how all these skills are communicated in a way that reflects a barista’s ability to work in a variety of settings, not just food service?

What if I don’t have a job?

I wish someone had told the young people that call me what I am about to tell you, maybe even while they were in high school: They could have planned accordingly and logged everything they did during their school years, creating a database of transferrable skills for the very important task of writing their resume and securing their first “real job”.

It is true. Having a job is a great way to gain experience and have something to put on your resume. However, as stated above, you can get experience and earn transferable skills from many different activities.

For the student that didn’t have time for anything but classes, homework and the inevitable projects, think about everything you had to do to navigate your college experience. Here are some examples:

  • Software Programs – MS Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)
  • Presentation Skills
  • Collaborative Team Situations
  • Project Management
  • Lab Equipment
  • Training & Development

For the student that has lots of volunteer and club activities, here are some examples:

  • Event Planning
  • Volunteer Recruitment or Training
  • Community & Public Relations
  • Advertising & Marketing
  • Presentation Skills

Finally, many college students are required to do internships and externships for completion of their degree. These types of assignments should absolutely be treated as work experience, regardless if they were paid or not.

Finding a job after you graduate from college can be a daunting task. Even thinking about looking for a job after graduation can make the hair stand on end. At the moment, maybe all you can think about is getting to class, studying and working on all those projects due at the end of each semester. But please, keep a list of everything you do and convert those activities into transferrable skills. When the time to start looking for your job comes, it will make your resume writing and job search so much easier.


Heather McBride, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Heather is a professional resume writer and human resources consultant at She has a true passion for assisting good people find great jobs, and helps hundreds of individuals, including graduates, with their successful job search each year. With 25 years’ experience in human resources and recruiting leadership, Heather knows what employers are looking for.

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