Transferable skills in the creative sector

9th June 2023

What we mean by transferable skills in the creative sector

One common issue we see with candidates is a misunderstanding of what constitutes transferable skills. Especially when they’re looking to switch careers or move sectors. Getting that wrong can hinder a job search, but it doesn’t have to. To help clarify what you need to know, and to get it right – here’s what we mean by transferable skills in the creative sector.

What do we actually mean by transferable skills?

Identifying and evaluating your skill set is essential to finding the right job. Every candidate will have a mix of hard skills (also known as technical skills) and softs skills. Hard skills are usually tied to a specific job or discipline. Transferable skills can be a mix of both hard and soft skills, and interpersonal skills.

Although many hard skills are honed in particular job roles, some will be transferable if you’re going for a job in the same industry i.e. proofreading, language skills, and proficiency in industry-standard software.

The short and obvious answer is: they are skills that can be easily carried over from one job to another. Chances are you may have more than you realise. But, the real value is understanding whether you have what it takes to do the job you want to, and align your transferable skills accordingly.

These could include:

  • Leadership: This isn’t just for managers or team leaders, anyone can show leadership, especially with a deadline looming.
  • Problem solving: Being able to identify a problem and then come up with a solution will be incredibly valuable, wherever you go.
  • Communication: Many of you will have this in your job title or description already, but it’s easy to take it for granted as a universal skill. Whether it’s giving precise, clear feedback or instructions or managing client expectations – communication is an essential part of most jobs.  

Why are transferable skills important? 

Before we get into more of the top transferable skills employers look for, let’s define some of the reasons why they’re important for candidates and employers:

  • Building stronger working relationships: A brilliant team doesn’t work if its members don’t get along. Strong interpersonal skills, good communication and teamwork all help to improve the workplace culture as well as getting good results for the organisation.
  • Demonstrating ability beyond core competencies: Having the abilities and experience to do the job you’re hired for is the basic requirement, but it’s not what will make you stand out. Using your transferable skills can help with career progression, both within an organisation or with new opportunities.
  • Creating a more productive and collaborative workplace: The creative industries thrive on collaboration, and great team building or problem solving skills help companies create award winning campaigns, content that converts, and successful pitches.

It’s also worth noting that skills aren’t the only thing you can transfer over from one job to another. Workplace achievements or awards that are relevant to the role you’re applying for, or even the organisation count too. So make sure you highlight them.

Reflecting on the projects, pitches or presentations that have gone well or stretched you beyond your daily responsibilities could reveal some valuable skills including creative thinking, adaptability and leadership.

What do candidates sometimes get wrong about transferable skills?

The main mistake we see with candidates is that they often identify job (or industry) specific skills as transferable when they might not be.

For example, you might currently work as a production coordinator in TV production and want to become account manager at a creative agency. Although there are some similarities, such as production workflow, you won’t necessarily have the client management experience to switch. Does that mean you can’t make the switch? Not necessarily, but you need to be realistic about which skills are transferable and consider your salary expectations.


How can identifying the right transferable skills help with job hunting? 

One of the most valuable ways to use transferable skills is to demonstrate your capability – even if your experience doesn’t quite match the job description. This is especially important if you’re looking to move up in terms of responsibility or you’re changing careers.

So how do you identify what your transferable skills are when applying for a job? Identifying and defining what your skillset is will help you tailor your CV as well as your cover letter or application. But if you’re not quite sure how to start, there’s a few ways to approach it.

  • Ask your co-workers/former bosses: One way to make sure your perception of your skillset aligns with how others think of you is to ask people you currently work with or have worked with.  If that sounds daunting, it doesn’t have to be. This could be anything from formal feedback via an appraisal, an old reference or even a catch up over a coffee.
  • Analyse your experience:Another approach is to do a quick timeline of your experience or CV review. Dig deeper into your recent experience and highlight what comes up, then pull together a short list of skills with a couple of bullet points for each.

But also:

  • Use job search tools and look at LinkedIn profiles : If you’re feeling a bit stuck, you can talk to us, we’re friendly and we can help. But before you do that, it might be worth spending some time using job searches to identify what skills come up. Then look at people in your network and ask them about how they use some of these skills in their careers.
  • Take an online assessment: If you’ve done all of the above and need a break, take a short questionnaire. You can use free online skills assessment to identify where your skills lie, and where there is room for improvement or development. Check out sites including the National Careers ServiceJob Personality, and Careers One Stop.

Transferable skills are also valuable because they’re generally more evergreen than hard skills. With hard skills, you need to keep up a certain level of training and learning. But your communication, and analytical skills or collaborative abilities will continue to be useful, as long as you apply them.

What kind of transferable skills are employers looking for?

On the job training is a valuable part of any career progression. But, with budgets stretched for the foreseeable future, it won’t be offered by every company. A 2019 UK government found that finances were a barrier to providing more staff training. Which is another reason employers look to transferable skills to identify candidates that will have a positive impact on the company culture, as well as fulfilling their job role.

According to recruitment sites including Indeed and FlexJobs, the top 10 transferable skills employers look for are:

  1. Problem Solving: Being able to quickly identify a potential problem is a boon to any team. But quickly and calmly working towards a solution to that problem is even more important.
  2.  Analytical Skills: Having a keen eye for detail is closely linked to problem solving, but having analytical skills can help identify opportunities for your team or company. Analytical skills can include interpreting data and making use of research.
  3. Leadership: Whether you’re in a leadership role or not, you can always look out for opportunities to take the lead on a smaller project, and that can include experience outside of work including volunteering or community groups.
  4.  Adaptability: Being able to embrace change or adapt your approach according to shifting priorities will go a long way to proving yourself.
  5. Teamwork: Another obvious one, but great work only happens when people work together. Demonstrating an ability to work well with others, and step up beyond your core responsibilities is valuable too.

As well as:

  1. Communication: From written communication to how you speak to clients and co-workers, and crucially, knowing when to listen – being a good communicator is essential to every role.
  2. Time management: Beyond showing up for work on time (again, that’s a minimum requirement) – having a great time management can also highlight how a person organises workflow, tackles tasks and delegates work.
  3. Creativity: You don’t necessarily need to be in a creative role to bring creativity and fresh ideas to a role or workplace. Creativity can help energise a team and works well with problem solving and analytical skills.
  4. Interpersonal Skills & Relationship Building: Building great relationships is essential to a good working culture and happy clients.
  5. Tech and Computer Literacy:You don’t necessarily need advanced data skills or tech capabilities. But being able to learn in-house systems, troubleshoot basic problems and being generally tech savvy are skills that employers value.

How to highlight your transferable skills?

In the first instance, use your CV and cover letter to highlight your relevant transferable schools. And once you land an interview, chances are you’ll be able to ask a couple of questions that will allow you to give some clear examples.  Whatever the example, make sure it’s truly relevant to the job you’re going for. Then you’re ready for the chance to stand out as a candidate.

Career Academy is brought to you by the founders of Moxie and Mettle  – [email protected] – 0117 301 8223.


About Career Academy

Career Academy is a free resource for candidates working in the creative sector in the UK, or those wishing to enter the creative industries so that’s roles in marketing, PR, creative, design, production, digital, communications, and social media.

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