We’ve talked about some of the most in-demand ‘hard’ tech skills –– but if you don’t have an interest in those areas, not all is lost. ‘Soft’, or ‘transferable’ skills are just as valuable, if not MORE valuable, than the obvious technical skills employers look for.
Remember, even if you’re not ‘techie’ at all, there’s still a place for you in tech.
In this article, we’ll outline the top 5 transferable workplace skills that’ll serve you in the tech industry and beyond. And we’ll provide practical tips on how to develop these skills.
But first, what are transferable skills?
They’re the skills that apply to any sort of work, and day-to-day life. Those keywords like ‘communication’ and ‘working in a team’ that you’ll skim over in job ads, thinking “everyone can do that”. But the truth is, these are skills that can be learned and improved. And employers love team members that can display these skills.
Martin Yate, author of Knock ’em Dead: The Ultimate Job Search Guide, describes it like this:
“Transferable skills are ones that apply in all professions. They are the foundation of all the professional success you will experience in this and other careers you may pursue over the years.”
And UK skills-building website SkillsYouNeed says, “you already have transferable skills – you’ve developed such skills and abilities throughout your life, at school and perhaps at university, at home and in your social life, as well as through any experience in the work-place.”
So you probably already have some well-developed transferable skills. But the key to securing a job, transitioning industries, or leveling-up in your career is to identify your unique strengths, and learn to promote them.
Top 5 transferable skills in tech
1. Attention to detail
If you’ve ever worked in coding, you’ll know how much of a difference a tiny detail can make. One number or character out of line can mean the difference between code that works and code that doesn’t.
Attention to detail is a crucial skill when you’re dealing with numbers (i.e. accounting), words (i.e. copywriting), or people (i.e. traffic management). And while you might already be that person picking up the holes in movie plotlines, or pointing out typos in restaurant menus, this is a skill you can work to enhance for your career.
- Exercise your brain with memory games and puzzles – this trains your brain to focus on small details.
- Practice meditation – a daily practice can help you learn to concentrate and block out distractions.
- Adopt a slower pace – while time is often of the essence in the workplace, slowing down can help you pay more attention to detail. Instead of zipping through your projects, actively slow down to produce higher quality work. Learn to review your work several times to pick up any mistakes.
2. Time management
Managing your time effectively isn’t actually about working faster. It’s about working smarter. You can train yourself to spend your time and energy on productive activities, and to cut out distractions, procrastination, and unfruitful activities.
- Monitor how you spend your time – try using a time tracking tool, such as Everhour, to log your daily activities and get a picture of how you spend your time.
- Prioritize your tasks – an effective to-do list is one way to ensure the high-priority tasks get done, or you can use a Time Management Matrix to chunk your tasks into what’s most urgent and important.
- Lean on tech – Tools like Notion can help you create to-do lists, set reminders, and plan your time well.
3. Critical thinking
Critical thinking in the workplace is being able “to think about something without falling prey to personal bias or doing things the way they have always been done”. It’s essentially the art of separating yourself from the matter at hand, assessing it from all angles, and solving problems creatively.
Being able to think critically also allows you to practise open communication (being mindful of different personality types), and collaborate with others.
Keystone Education Group offers these tips for people looking to boost their critical thinking ability:
- Know what you want to achieve – identify the purpose.
- Deal with your biases – look at issues from different perspectives.
- Weigh up the consequences of your decisions – a pros and cons list can help.
- Do your research – even if you think you know everything there is to know, go deeper.
- Accept that you’re not always right – and that it’s okay to make mistakes.
- Break it down – work through smaller aspects of the bigger picture.
- Don’t overcomplicate things – discover the fine line between positive thinking and overthinking.
Being resourceful means being able to get things done using what you have on hand. It means being proactive, and finding solutions even when you’re not asked to do so.
In practice, it might mean finding a free software solution that cuts down on your team’s time, or creating basic designs on Microsoft Paint in lieu of more advanced software that the company doesn’t have budget for. It’s the embodiment of the saying, “when there’s a will, there’s a way”.
A Yale article suggests bolstering your resourcefulness skills by:
- Adopting a “will do at any cost” attitude over a “can do” attitude.
- Exploring different avenues and thinking outside the box – even if it means trying something multiple different ways before it works.
- Building a list of subject matter experts, so you know who to go to for help.
- Getting over the fear of asking a “stupid question”. Asking is a quest for knowledge. (We love that!)
In the fast-paced world of tech, things are always changing. It sometimes means that the trajectory of your project shifts overnight, or that new team members are brought on quickly. But as stressful as change may be, you can always build your resilience towards it and learn to adapt to new circumstances quickly.
Asana suggests working on 3 types of adaptability in the workplace:
- Cognitive adaptability – thinking through different scenarios and preparing for the different outcomes.
- Emotional adaptability – accepting that other people think and process information differently to you, and being mindful of it.
- Personality adaptability – seeing imperfections and opportunities in any given situation.
Where to go to develop your transferable skills
Learning from the experience of others is a great way to build your transferable skills, and podcasts offer a simple way to sneak some learning in every day. (During your commute, or a walk, etc.)
Here are some of our favorites that can help you develop some of the soft skills we’ve mentioned above.
- Think Fast, Talk Smart – conversations with Matt Abrahams, a lecturer of Strategic Communication at Stanford Graduate School of Business, on real-world challenges and communication practices.
- Transform Your Workplace – discussing big workplace ideas with thought leaders, entrepreneurs and HR experts.
- How to Be a Better Human – a comedic but insightful podcast focused on self-improvement at work and home.
- TED Business – an enlightening look at innovative ideas, with mini-lessons on how to apply it to your life.
- STAY TUNED – The all-new Girls in Tech Podcast will be dropping soon, featuring insightful discussions between tech leaders and Girls in Tech CEO Adriana Gascoigne. It’ll be tailored towards the unique challenges facing women in technology. For now, check out our past episodes!
Girls in Tech Programs
- Girls in Tech Academy – Our online courses are specifically focused on helping you develop soft skills to help you in your career. Check out the Design Thinking Course to see how it can help you gain confidence in critical thinking at work.
- Girls in Tech Mentorship Program – Getting a mentor is a great step towards developing yourself and addressing where you can build your transferable skills for greater career development. Our mentorship program is designed for women in tech, and we regularly connect new mentors and mentees through it.
Keep an eye on the Girls in Tech Events page to stay on top of the latest career development programs and events that you can use to develop your transferable skills.