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8 Transferable Skills that will Enhance Your Competitiveness on the Job Market

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Author: Dr. Nathan Vanderford | Category: Career Development | July 14, 2016

Transferable skills are the skills one develops in one setting that can be applied to other situations. 

As scientists, these are the skills that we learn in the laboratory that can be transferred to other job settings whether that is working in the pharmaceutical industry or in a business/non-laboratory setting.

Employers typically do not hire individuals specifically for their discipline-specific knowledge in today’s job market. Rather, they want people that can leverage transferable skills in a complex business environment in the context of their knowledge of a particular discipline.

As trainees, it is important to identify the transferable skills you excel in now and then to access those that you need to be successful in whatever career you would like to pursue. Filling in transferable skills gaps could be the key to getting your dream job. 

There are several dozen transferable skills, but I believe that some are more important than others. Below are 8 transferable skills that I believe trainees need to leverage in order to be most competitive for landing a job and then being successful in that job.

1) Communication

Yes, you need to be able to speak and write effectively and efficiently. But, communication skills also go beyond oral and written communication. You must also excel at the use of non-verbal skills in a way that enhances your professional demeanor.

2) Critical/analytical thinking

Employers want employees that can analyze and evaluate situations and problems and make decisions independently.

3) Strategic perspective

The business world is complex and employers like it when their employees understand that and can see how their particular duties fit in with the overall big picture. Your contribution to your employers’ mission goes well beyond your daily tasks, so work to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for that. As you do, your work output will be enhanced and you will be more greatly valued.

4) Self-motivation

Employers are looking for employees that they know are self-driven and self-motivated in a way that will aid in their ability to get a job done in a timely fashion. You must show your potential employer that you can execute a task without having to be constantly checked in on.

5) Time management

 This is related to self-motivation in that it is very important to understand that time is money and thus employers want employees that understand the need to complete tasks and projects under tight deadlines. You must be able to juggle multiple tasks and responsibilities all under the context of time sensitivity.

6) Ethics/integrity

As C.S. Lewis has said, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” Ultimately, an employee’s actions can be viewed as an extension of their company’s brand. Businesses only want to hire employees that will enhance their image and not tarnish it. So, make sure you have impeccable ethical principles and make sure that you constantly and persistently demonstrate those principles through your actions.

7) Resilience

 Resilience is about not quitting or giving up. Near impossible tasks will come your way and it is important to find ways to get these tasks done.

8) Attitude

 We all like to be around genuinely happy and collegial people. The same goes for employers in that they want to hire people that will be easy to get along with and that will work well with others. So, you should express a good, positive attitude.

Dr. Nathan Vanderford, is an assistant dean for academic development at the College of Medicine and Assistant Director for Research at the Markey Cancer Center at the University of Kentucky. To learn more about Dr. Vanderford, see his website at

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