How to highlight your transferable skills

Written by Sue Smethurst for Australian Seniors.                                 

As a result of the pandemic, Australia is experiencing one of its largest-ever labour shortages. This means that older workers are becoming even more highly sought-after, not just for the wealth of experience they offer, but also the transferable skills that make them ideal employees.                                                        

And with Australian Seniors research showing almost 60% of over 50s plan to seek further careers and job training with a view to returning to the workforce or shifting gears, it’s music to the ears of employers across the country.                                   

So what are transferable skills, and how can older workers make the most of them? Essentially, they are traits and expertise that are relevant across various roles and industries. Sally McKibbin, career coach at job site Indeed, says mature workers have them in spades, but often don’t even know it.                                                   

Older candidates may be better at problem solving

“Resilience, adaptability, communication, problem-solving and critical thinking are all highly valuable and in-demand skills today, particularly in the current labour market, and these are skills that older workers tend to be strongest in,” Sally explains. “Given transferable skills are developed throughout life and mature over time, older workers often possess highly transferable skill sets without even realising they do.”                                                     

The Australian Human Rights Commission agrees that mature-age workers are often underappreciated. It’s 2021 research highlights that older workers are rated as being more loyal, reliable and aware, with 75% of respondents rating older works as more loyal than younger workers. 

Happily, in the current climate, there are plenty of jobs available. Earlier this year the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed there were more than 423,000 job vacancies across the country in February 2022. The development comes in the wake of the pandemic, with industries like trades, hospitality and tourism and manufacturing facing the fallout from the lack of international worker arrivals, and other industries such as healthcare and technology experiencing skill shortages and personnel burnout.                                                                  

What do employers want in a candidate? 

“Employers are increasingly looking for candidates who are able to remain focused through periods of uncertainty and change, adjust to new ways of working, bring fresh perspectives and solutions to solve problems, and display an eagerness to continually learn and develop. This is where older and more experienced workers can really add value,” Sally says.

“Owing to their life experience, older workers often display strong interpersonal or soft skills like emotional intelligence, confidence, good problem-solving abilities and communication, all of which are highly sought-after by employers across industries and roles.

“Additionally, workers who have been in the workforce for many years are also likely to have honed skills like adaptability, resilience and strong work ethic as a result of having to continually adjust to new ways of working, as well as navigate challenges and changes like recessions, industry developments, or more recently, the pandemic.

The value of years of experience

It’s important that older workers recognise the value in their years of experience and highlight this when it comes to applying for new roles.

Sally says it’s vitally important for older job seekers to showcase transferable skills on their CV, particularly if they’re considering a career change, as this may provide a competitive edge over other candidates. Both soft skills (interpersonal skills) and technical skills (also known as hard skills, gained through formal training or education required for a specific job or industry) can be transferable.

If you’re not sure what transferable skills you may have, Sally suggests consulting trusted friends or colleagues to help identify your strengths and in particular any you may have overlooked. Importantly, make sure you highlight these in an interview.

“When it comes to drafting your CV, closely review the job advertisement and take note of keywords, duties and responsibilities,” she says. “Then consider which of your transferable skills are most relevant based on this information and match these to the role – emphasising how your experience and expertise translates to the position.

“Highlight both the technical and soft skills you display and provide examples of when you’ve applied these and positive outcomes achieved where relevant.”

Over 50s careers – by the numbers

45% have attempted to re-enter the workforce or make a career change.

59% have or are planning to complete further training.

51% are looking to reskill in a new area.

For the full results: The Australian Seniors Series: Ageing in the Workforce 2021