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.

Not Your Ordinary Interview Preparation Checklist—Everything Counts

Every conversation becomes an interview, of sorts, when there are questions to:   

  • Get information and/or share ideas
  • Form or validate perceptions
  • Assess capabilities or weigh credibility
  • Develop or broaden relationships
  • Explore or finalize next steps
  • Offer or retract opportunities 

That means we always need to be ready to answer questions effectively, especially when they are part of: 

  • Job interviews
  • Promotional discussions
  • Performance feedback
  • Special assignment offers
  • Requests for project support 

Interviews affect our careers. We can’t afford to be sloppy or naive about them. 

Be on your toes 

There is casual conversation at work and there is serious conversation. We need to know which is which and when one suddenly becomes the other. 

What starts out as a “how was your weekend” conversation with your boss can quickly turn into: “I didn’t know you were so involved as a youth soccer leader. Do you know _________? He’s a good friend of mine.” (Interview question) 

In an instant you have added another variable to a work relationship and more data about your skills. 

There thousands of bits of information and experiences plus endless relationships and connections that you’ve accumulated in your life so far. 

I suspect that you, like most, don’t consider most of them assets for the interviews that are coming your way. That’s a big mistake. 

Our credibility as employees, job candidates, managers, business owners, consultants, and teachers is rooted in our experiences.

Everything counts 

Careers grow on the basis of knowledge, skills, experience, and relationships. 

“Been there, done that” in business is exactly what management wants when we’ve done both well. It’s what an interview is designed to reveal. 

Surprise yourself by completing this inventory about what you’ve done that is relevant to your career today and for the future. 

Then turn it into a checklist to help you prepare for your next “interview.” (The parens are ideas to get you started.) 

Your “been there” list 

  1. What different kinds of organizations have you worked for? (Companies, non-profits, start ups, store chains, mom and pops)
  2. What states, town, and countries have you worked in?
  3. Whom have you meet that you’d admit to? (Business owners, community leaders, politicians, journalists)
  4. What career experiences have you dealt with? (Job loss, promotion,  transfer, company closings, achievement recognition)
  5. What schooling, training, and travel experiences have you had? (Institutions attended and degrees/certificates received, countries and states visited, cultures experienced) 

Your “done that” list 

  1. What kind of office work have you experienced? (Management, administrative, technical, financial, communications)
  2. What kind of field work have you done? (Sales, construction, troubleshooting, installations)
  3. What entrepreneurial or freelance experiences have you had? (Hobby business, social media marketing, blogging)
  4. What volunteering have you done? (Cause promotion, political candidate support, fund-raising)
  5. What have you done that’s creative? (Musical/theatre performances, artwork exhibited, writing published, arts patronage) 

Everything adds up 

Every interview and conversation is an opportunity to connect with someone. What makes you interesting are your experiences. Where you’ve been and what you’ve done create a picture of what you know and the skills you have. 

Some experiences are serious and others funny. They all have value. 

I’ve written in this blog about being hit between the eyes with a spitball when I taught high school, hauling cartons of frozen butter and turkeys to Head Start centers when I worked in social service, and being questioned by a dozen lawyers during a utility company rate case. 

You have your own stories like these to draw from but better.   

Keep track 

It’s tempting to minimize our experiences. We tend to think the experiences of others are grander. 

A successful interview isn’t about being grand. It’s about connecting, being authentic, and sharing experiences that demonstrate your capabilities, integrity, and commitment. 

Take a little time to create your checklist. Use it when you prepare for your next interview. You’ll be surprised at what an asset it is. 

Photo from bpsusf via Flickr