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The power of transferable skills – Bossing It

27 June 2023

Developing transferable skills can be invaluable to your progression, whether gained through volunteering, personal experience or through your university studies. We spoke to members of our incredible alumni community who have shared their wisdom on how these skills can benefit you when starting out on your career path.

Lauren Humphreys (BA 2015)

Lauren graduated from Cardiff University with a degree in Religion and Theology in 2015. Since graduating she has pursued a career in Human Resources and currently works as an HR Manager. She is responsible for all elements of the employment lifecycle, as well as developing strategies aligned with business goals, implementing solutions across a range of HR initiatives and projects, and providing best practice advice and guidance to the organisation.

Pursue what you find personal value in

I would wholeheartedly encourage you to consider the reasons you chose your degree, and what you’ve learned behaviourally about yourself through your studies to create your personal brand and develop your career path. I pursued the degree I had chosen as I had an interest in people and their motivations. Through evaluation and understanding their views and beliefs, I have been able to transfer this interest and learned skills of empathy and influencing, to apply to situations in my career. Throughout my studies I was required to evaluate information and make recommendations, and I now apply these transferable skills to create and apply people-focussed strategies and solutions.

Emotional intelligence is a valuable transferable skill

One piece of advice I would share is that if you are able to recognise, understand, and manage your emotions, as well as recognise and influence the emotions that surround you in any collaborative environment, you will be able to motivate and lead successfully. This can be applied to a wide range of settings in both business, sport, social environments, and personal endeavours. Emotional intelligence is a valuable skill in change management environments, and working closely with a range of stakeholders, whether it be developing new theory, research, or practice in your field.

Lizzie Romain (BMid 2014)

Lizzie qualified with a Bachelor of Midwifery 1st Class Honours in 2014, and now practises part-time to uphold her professional registration. Lizzie moved into a full-time career as a journalist/producer for a UK news channel in 2022, following three years of radio presenting and producing for Hayes FM 91.8 and Future Hits Radio.

The importance of transferrable skills when changing up your career

As much as I’d cherished working as a full-time midwife, I realised that there were other creative endeavours I just couldn’t get out of my head, and I was willing to take on the challenge to make a switch.

The great thing about working in healthcare is you develop and hone key transferrable skills, attractive to any potential employer: the ability to remain calm under pressure, to work autonomously and as part of a multidisciplinary team, super strong communication skills, diligent timekeeping… the list goes on and on.

These skills have certainly been handy when I made the leap of faith into my first broadcast job as a journalist/producer for a UK news channel. Keeping a cool head in a live newsroom is so important for wider dynamics, and communicating effectively with colleagues when outputting breaking news is vital for speed and accuracy.

It was difficult to change careers in my late twenties, but if you put in the hard graft, add a dash of opportune moments and sprinkle of luck, the transferrable skills learnt at the beginning of your career will carry you through to the peak… just don’t forget to enjoy the journey!

Gabby Kitney (BSc 2012)

Gabby is the Head of Marketing – North America at The SR Group and has been working within the marcomms field for over ten years having worked for brands like Vistra, CFA Institute and Deloitte.  Long before getting into marcomms, she started playing field hockey at the age of six – going on to play for the national Hong Kong team for over a decade. Gabby played in numerous FIH tournaments across Asia, as well as in various friendlies against teams warming up on their way to the Beijing Olympics. Throughout school and university, she was also involved in football, boxing, athletics, and cross country. Although injury meant pivoting her approach to competitive sport, she continued to both play and coach hockey in Hong Kong and now in New York.

Communication is key

So much has built me up to where I am now, but nothing quite like playing sport – particularly my 25+ years playing hockey. There have been so many lessons and skills I’ve learnt from the sporting world that have 100% contributed to the success in my corporate life – the most significant is communication though. On the pitch, there is nothing worse than quiet – you’ve got no idea what’s going on and more often than not, this will see a team fall. You need to have constant communication – words of encouragement and direction.

You need feedback afterwards so you know what you can do to be even better or maintain your performance the next time round, and you can’t take things personally – what happens on the pitch, stays on the pitch. With that being said, there is a way to offer feedback and direction, and it doesn’t ever need to be done in a hurtful or really negative way. At work, I’m constantly reminded that communication is key – whether that’s keeping stakeholders in the loop so they know you’re working with them as a team to deliver what they need, or communicating with peers and teammates so you nurture your relationships so you that can most effectively work together. Without good communication, you’ll never truly be a team, but just be a group of individuals that happen to be trying to achieve the same thing.

Jamilla Hekmoun (MA 2018)

Jamilla is a Research Fellow of the Faith in Mental Health project at the Woolf Institute. She is currently writing up her PhD on Muslim men’s mental health where she is exploring the relationship between faith, ethnicity, masculinity, and mental health. Jamilla is a former Board Trustee at the Muslim Youth Helpline and is Chair of the Muslim Mental Health Alliance; a network of organisations aiming to collaborate on mental health in the sector. She is an Executive Board Member at the Muslim Council of Wales. She has also written a book chapter on Muslim mental health published in 2019. She won a 2022 Cardiff University 30(ish) Award in addition to receiving the Special Recognition Award for Community Activism.

Taking risks leads to resilience

When I was just starting out in my career in my early twenties, I was afraid of taking risks because I didn’t want to hear the word “no”. I felt like it was a personal failure and would take it to heart. I shifted my mindset to think “the worst that someone can say is “no”. Being resilient is a transferable skill I’ve adopted and often now when someone says no, I hear “not yet”. It spurs me on to keep going forward

Hannah Sterritt (BMus 2015, MSc 2022)

Hannah Sterritt (BMus 2015, MSc 2022) works for Miller Research, an environmentally conscious research, evaluation, and consulting company based in Abergavenny. To date, her varied career has focused upon engagement and events, before pivoting to focus on sustainability through pursuing a MSc in Sustainability Planning and Environmental Policy. Hannah also holds several voluntary roles, including as a Trustee of the Inland Waterways Association which built upon the dissertation she completed as part of her master’s.

Learn how to transfer your skills across different sectors

When I applied to university, I wanted to pursue something I was passionate about at a higher level.  Music gave me the flexibility after graduation to consider either a career in that field or, by using the transferrable skills I’d learned such as teamwork, leadership, and dedication to a particular instrument, to explore other areas and industries. After working in engagement and events for Cardiff University, I found myself increasingly interested in applying sustainability principles to this work. This job encouraged me to take on environmental champion roles and gave me the flexibility to study a master’s course part time. Through this I was able to develop new skills specific to a new career direction, and I now work as a sustainable communities consultant which has combined all of my voluntary and professional skills.

Vicky Lord (BA 2018, MA 2019)

Vicky studied English Literature at Cardiff University and the experience she gained as an Editorial Assistant for the Qualitative Research journal and Student Ambassador / Office Assistant roles in Student Recruitment led to her current role as Business Process Administrator at Pan Macmillan, and a move to London. Having been a Cardiff University Student Mentor, and serial volunteer, she is currently the Careers Support Officer for the Society of Young Publishers (London), helping new publishing professionals harness their skills, and Front of House stewarding at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

Try something new

Volunteering is a great way to gain new transferable skills and can be an incredibly flexible pursuit, slotting into your lifestyle and contributing to your personal goals. You determine the commitment; one-off events, or continuous, and you may seek out career-orientated volunteering or explore other passions and interests which is a great form of self-care. Particularly following graduation, choosing to volunteer highlights correlations between your interests and skills, and can contribute to deciding a particular career path. Volunteering is the easiest way to try new opportunities on for size, even if they’re not quite the right fit you will always have those newly developed skills to transfer to the next role.

Be adaptable

 Being adaptable and learning as you go is one of the key transferable skills that I’ve developed through volunteering. Often this has required a complete shift in mindset. I’ve gone from creating publishing reports for editors, to front-of-house stewarding at the theatre. Learning and applying new information or processes quickly may feel like a reflex but, it’s a demonstrable skill and often the key to positive impact. It’s something that will prove incredibly valuable as you progress through your career.

The Cardiff University community are a helpful bunch, here to help you get ahead in your chosen career. You can browse through their advice and top tips on a wide range of business topics in our ‘Bossing It’ series.