Bankrupt or Flush with Transferable Skills? A Telling Story

Transferable skills get us hired or promoted. They’re our career currency. Without them, there’s no deal.

The more transferable skills we have the more valuable we are. Resumes market them. Interviews showcase them. 

Can you list your top ten, most marketable transferable skills, right now?

Bankrupt or flush? 

Transferable skills are attached to us all the time, not just at work. It’s time to get a handle on your bank of skills.

Pick a recent life event and write it down.

As you uncover your transferable skills, insert them like I’ve done here.

Casey, down for the count 

I start every day (dependability) in the barn, feeding my horse, cats, and Casey, my seven-year-old, Lab-golden retriever mix. Casey’s a busy dog, full of energy who, as a puppy, wouldn’t tolerate being a house dog. The barn was way more interesting. So she got her way.

About two weeks ago, I noticed that she wouldn’t eat (attention to detail) her breakfast. That happens sometimes, so I went about my other chores. Then I noticed that when she tried to go into the horse stall, her back end faltered. Three minutes later she was down and couldn’t get up.

My large animal vet was at a conference, my small animal vet on vacation. I suspected I didn’t have much lead time (problem assessment) to get help for Casey.

There is a veterinary hospital about four miles from me where I had never been a client. I called (decision-making) at 6:30 AM to learn they opened at 7.

I lifted 79-pound Casey into my car, drove to the vet hospital, and waited in the parking lot for someone to show up (assertiveness).

The receptionist was the first to arrive. I explained that I wasn’t a client but had a dire need (communication). She looked at me kindly and explained that she didn’t have an appointment open until 10:40, but she’d let the doctor know when she came in at 9:30. I scheduled the appointment as a back up (planning), took a deep breath (stress management), went home and waited.

I parked the car in the shade and brought Casey some water (safety and initiative). She lay quietly. I took a shower so for my next appearance at the vet hospital, I wouldn’t look so shabby (brand management).

At 8 AM the phone rang. The veterinarian was there and would see me. Relief.

It took me and a technician to carry Casey into an exam room (collaboration). The veterinarian examined and then admitted Casey. After some blood tests, it was clear she had Lyme disease (big surprise, I had it and my horse too) plus a seriously low potassium count.

The decision was to keep Casey overnight with IV fluids. I received several update calls from the veterinarian and one that unnerved me a bit. Since the hospital didn’t have 24-hour coverage, did I want them to transfer Casey to a monitoring facility about 35 minutes away (risk assessment)?

I opted to keep her where she was, thinking it would be less stressful  (decision-making and accountability).

The next day the vet called saying that Casey was a “new dog,” on her feet, hungry, and wagging her tail. She could go home with medications and a few restrictions.

The technician hugged me when she brought Casey to me. I struggled to hold myself together (self-control).

Next I wrote a commendation letter to the veterinary hospital owner, the case veterinarian and technician who cared for Casey (communication).

I admit I was braced for the worst. I’ve been through other events here at the farm that didn’t have a happy ending. Each time I have to face uncertainty, I need to draw on those experiences and transferable skills for strength.

Finding yours

 You have your own transferable skills that you undoubtedly take for granted since you’re using them without thinking.

It’s time to make your transferable skills part of your consciousness and your conversation. They are the building blocks of your career and your business fitness. Uncover them and use them well.

20 thoughts on “Bankrupt or Flush with Transferable Skills? A Telling Story

    • Thanks, Kathy. Yes, Casey’s out of the woods. It was a sick animal here in August, as my horse was diagnosed with COPD. Getting the drugs right to help him breathe easier has been a challenge. So glad I’m healthy…something I’m thankful for every day. I think gratitude is also a transferable skill that we need to focus on every day. Hope you’re feeling better too. It’s time! ~Dawn

  1. What a fantastic reminder told with a true story, of the skills that most of us already possess and either don’t realize we have or don’t realize we’re using. Brings to mind, again, my all time favorite–The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy’s 3 friends each thought they lacked something, but in the end they had the brains, the courage and the heart, they just hadn’t looked deep enough to find them. Even Dorothy had the ability all along to go home by virtue of the magical powers of the ruby slippers, but as Glinda pointed out–she had to discover it for herself.

    You are SO right-on, Dawn, “It’s time to make your transferable skills part of your consciousness and your conversation….Uncover them and use them.” After all, “Oz never did give nothing to the Tin man that he didn’t already have.” Yep, America, The Wizard of Oz, & Dawn Lennon are my favorites! Not necessarily in that order 😉

    • Pam, what a terrific connection…and thanks for putting me in such terrifically artistic company. Like you I love the Wizard of Oz for exactly what you describe. I’ve often used the story in presentations…especially, the “you’re not in Kansas anymore” line. Sometimes we just need to wake up in a new place to see ourselves afresh. Then when we’re tested in new ways, we rediscover our capabilities. So thanks for all this wonderful insight and wisdom. You’ve made the message here so much more powerful. Have a great week! ~Dawn

  2. Excellent story and good reminder to all of us of the critical transferable skills that work in every part of our lives. As another dog lover, who had many health issues with our last dog, Teddy, I can relate. With a new little guy living with us now, your description is a good heads up to watch for with our Buddy.

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Julie. It’s always nice to meet another dog person and I suspect you Buddy is living the good life. As it turns out, my Casey had Lyme but also a potassium level far below the low end of the range. Supplements have gotten her back to normal but still no certainty about the cause. It may have been an aberration or something to be treated continually. Coupled with the Lyme, Casey was in a bad way.

      So glad you enjoyed the story and the message. Great to hear from you. Have a wonderful week.~Dawn

  3. Wow Dawn, that’s quite a story – visceral while teaching us to look at our own transferable skills. If I would break down a situation like that for myself I think I’d be seeing more skills than I sometimes give myself credit for.

    Thanks for sharing yourself and your skills. Glad Casey is up and about!!!!

    • Thanks, Cherry. You’re so right: Too often we just think our transferable skills are things we do at work. Usually, we bring those skills to work and just hone them there in a career context. It was eye-opening for me just to see how that came true in my own story. I really appreciate your enthusiastic feedback for this “sharing” post (not my normal format…need I say more to you?). I’m glad my girl’s back on all four feet too. Stay dry today, ~Dawn

  4. This is great Dawn. People so often don’t realize the list of skills they bring to the table because they’re using them without thinking. At a party yesterday I was speaking to a woman who is 40, works at a law firm, and has concluded that after 15 years she no longer wants to work at law firms. She couldn’t figure out where she could take her career (if anywhere) due to spending almost all of it at law firms. Trying to get an idea of her skills so I could make some suggestions, it became clear that she had no idea what her skills were. She had never stopped to go through the exercise that you did above with your typical day…which is exactly what I urged her to do to get the thought process started and the creative juices flowing.

    • Marc, what an amazing coincidence! The woman you talked with is the rule rather than the exception unfortunately. I’m always stunned when I meet accomplished people who don’t believe they have skills of value to offer another employer or to start a business. It’s really sad and frustrating. One of my best friends is in the same boat, as much as I keep driving home the point with him.

      Thanks for adding another important story to this post and for your ongoing support. ~Dawn

  5. Dawn, I love the way you illustrated your point with a compelling story. We often think we aren’t qualified to do something when we really are. On the other hand, we can be put into positions where we have to learn new skills and that is also good. I say that because I am learning so many new things as a business owner that I never thought I could do.

    • Great to hear from you, Connie. You make a terrific point using yourself as an example: “…I am learning so many new things as a business owner that I never thought I could do.” If we’re smart we always keep adding to our skill sets by making existing skills stronger and by adding new ones. Starting your own business, learning how to use social media impactfully, and building new relationships are extraordinary ways to keep growing and remaining relevant. I know that you bring these points home with your programs and your clients. Thanks for adding your insights here. ~Dawn

  6. Dawn, I added the blog to Lead Change and then read this post. I love the analogy. People don’t often think in terms of transferable skills. We tend to pidgeon-hole our skills to the context where they were used. This is a great example of how to use a story to separate the skill from the context. Thanks. Mike…

    • Mike, thanks for adding your voice to this topic. You’re so right: We do pigeon-hole our skills and lose sight of all the organizations that need them. I once worked for a company that implied that the work its employees were doing was unique to only its needs. No other organization would want or value them in the same way. Too many employees came to believe that, feeling entrapped in a way. Transferable skills are the trump card that we all hold.

      I really appreciate having my blog at Lead Change Group ( and hope my readers will find their way to it. I’ve appreciated your warm welcome and you bring me into the fold so quickly. I look forward to hearing from you again! ~Dawn

  7. Oh, I was holding my breath for Casey (adorable, those Lab mixes!), and expecting the worst (catastrophizing-bankrupt, oops!), so happy that the outcome was a positive one (hopeful).

    This is a wonderful activity, and so applicable. I’m about to go and meet four new social work interns that I’ll be training for the next several months–I think I’ll give this one a go.

    Awesome use of creativity, and you can’t go wrong with a happy animal story:).

    • Linda, wow, I’m excited that you might be able to use this approach in your own work. I’d love to know how it worked in your training. Good luck with that.

      I was holding my breath too with Casey. I’m glad she’s out of the woods. The problem with our pets is that usually we outlive them…many of them. Putting our hearts out there is both a challenge and commitment. I’m thrilled that I’ll have more time with her. Thanks for caring. ~Dawn

  8. Kate, you put this beautifully when you write about “folks who believe they don’t have the “right” degree or “elite” experience required. They waste precious time pursuing unnecessary credentialing when they actually had the necessary skills.” As you say, it is a matter of framing and communicating what they have to offer. Marketing our transferable skills effectively is often all that it takes. I wish more employees would “get over” amassing academic credentials and focus on developing and putting their strengths to work in different ways and under different circumstances. It would be a much better (and cheaper) use of their time. I know an awful lot of business executives and owners with none or only one degree. Thanks for adding this fabulous perspective. ~Dawn

  9. Kate, thanks for this terrific and insightful comment. You are so right when you write that ” folks who believe they don’t have the “right” degree or “elite” experience required. They waste precious time pursuing unnecessary credentialing when they actually had the necessary skills. They only needed to frame it and communicate it.” I know so many executives with no degrees or only one. Instead of chasing credentials, they figured out how to put their skills to work to make a name for themselves. We would save ourselves at lot of time and money if we gave that strategy more credence. Wonderful to hear from you. ~Dawn

    • Hey, Daria. Please let me know how it worked out for you. You’ve got a ton of transferable skills that you showcase everyday and likely miss seeing. I’d love to know what you discover. Thanks for taking the plunge with the exercise! ~Dawn

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