What is a transferable skill?
My personal definition: A transferable skill is one that suits to a wide range of professions, occupations or activities.
Thus, transferable skills remain useful and valuable even if you decide to change professions or if you are forced to modify your career path. It’s not always possible to predict what work you’ll be doing 10 years from now, but it’s safe to say that these transferable skills will continue to be useful.
In this article I will present one example of transferable skills (public speaking), illustrating how these skills can be acquired and developed.
Acquiring a new skill
Generally speaking, if we want to acquire a new skill, we need to follow a plan:
- Define what skill we want to acquire.
- Find the sources of information that will allow us to acquire knowledge about this skill.
- Find ways to put this skill into practice to acquire experience in addition to knowledge.
- Start simultaneously studying (gaining knowledge) and practicing (gaining experience).
- After acquiring enough knowledge and experience, ensure that this skill can be monetized, which proves its value.
For example, let’s say you want to develop public speaking skills:
- Define that you want to speak in public and choose the topic on which you would like to speak.
- Find videos and articles of people giving tips on effective public speaking.
- Find opportunities to speak in public, for example at meetups or conferences.
- Start studying and practicing simultaneously.
- When you feel prepared, you can start charging for public speaking.
In practice, several years can pass from the moment you start giving your first talks until someone is willing to pay you. But even if you’re not yet getting paid to speak in public, surely developing this skill will lead to other indirect revenue opportunities.
- For example, someone who attended your lecture is very impressed and offers you a project.
- Or maybe someone who liked your talk is willing to pay you to mentor them.
- Or maybe someone makes you a job offer after watching your lecture.
On the importance of feedback
It is very important in the process of developing new competencies to ensure that you have appropriate mechanisms for receiving feedback.
Thus, in the previous example, at the end of the lecture you should pass a questionnaire to your audience so that they can say if they are satisfied and if they have any comments.
Likewise, in this example it is important that you record all your lectures so that you can review and analyze them.
As you review the videos, you can answer questions like:
- How’s my intonation? Do I speak in a monotonous way or can I be more dynamic?
- Do I speak with enthusiasm? Can I convey my enthusiasm to the audience?
- What questions were asked during the lecture? Are these questions a result of audience interest or a lack of clarity in my message?
- How is my body language? Do I look at the audience or avoid looking at them? Do I use my hands well or do I talk with my hands in my pockets?
My personal experience as a public speaker
It has always been important for me to have the ability to speak in public. But of course, as any normal person, I was afraid. So for me the first goal was to be able to face a group of people and speak in public without feeling afraid.
After several tries, I understood that in order not to be afraid of public speaking, I needed a few things:
- Have total mastery of the subject. This means knowing exactly what I’m going to say, but also being prepared to answer every question.
- Think about my audience in a positive way. Knowing that if they came to watch my lecture, it means they are interested in the subject. So I simply think that they’re all my friends and they like me.
- Be well rested before the lecture and avoid thinking about other matters. Be focused on the topic of the lecture for several hours before the lecture.
Get out of your Comfort Zone
I once gave a talk in French. I speak French quite well, but not as well as Hebrew, Portuguese or English. So, at the beginning of the talk, I said:
“This is the first time I’m going to speak in public in French. For me, this is a big challenge. I’m sure I’ll make a lot of mistakes, there will be words that I’ll pronounce wrong, and other words that I’ll have to ask you how to say. But even so, it’s important for me to give this talk in French. I’m sure you’ll understand me and that I’ll be able to convey my message.”
The audience loved this intro. Not only were they even more willing to pay attention to the lecture, but they were also ready to help me, admiring my courage in trying to give a lecture in a language that I didn’t completely master.
Experience avoids anxiety
A person who has experience does not get nervous when he/she has to speak in public. This applies not only to lectures, but also to a wide range of other situations, such as meetings in a company.
If you’re not afraid to give a talk to a group of a hundred people gathered in an auditorium, you won’t have any difficulty participating in a meeting either. You will know how to coordinate your thoughts and speak in a clear and understandable way. You will be able to think quickly when answering questions.
Public speaking is a transferable skill because it also applies to a wide variety of other situations in which you need to get your ideas across to a group of people.
Best of all, when people recognize your public speaking skills, they’ll ask you to represent them in all the appropriate situations. So, if you are participating in a team project, and that moment comes when someone needs to present the results of the project, you will be the chosen one. In this way, your public speaking ability turns into a leadership quality that will set you apart from other professionals on your team, opening the door to new opportunities.
What should you do if you don’t like public speaking?
It may happen that you’ve chosen to develop this skill, and that after a few tries you’ve come to the conclusion that you really don’t like public speaking.
No problem. I’m not saying that all professionals necessarily need to have this skill. But I do believe that they should at least do an experiment and try to develop it.
In general, the main idea is for you to experiment with different skills and gradually discover your talents, what suits you best, what you like best.
The important thing is to know that all people have ignored talents, because they never had the chance to try. We must not imagine that our talents are just those things that we are naturally drawn to do. We may certainly discover that we have abilities we never imagined. What’s more, we may find that we enjoy doing things we’ve never tried to do before.
The secret is in exposing yourself to new experiences. But this must be structured so that you can come to valid conclusions. For example, if you want to learn how to cook, first understand the real complexity of cooking, and then invest in having good equipment and good ingredients.
There is no point in making an attempt with little investment and then abandoning it when the results are not as good as we would like.
I hope this article has presented you with a concrete approach to develop your own transferable skills. Plan to acquire both knowledge and experience, make sure you have the right feedback mechanisms, and don’t be afraid to get out of your Comfort Zone.
Please feel free to share in the comments below your own personal experience developing transferable skills.