Executive Centre

Know your transferable skills as against transportable skills


There comes a point in every professionalís career when one is at cross-roads & thinks of a role change. One of the most important elements of career strategy for professionals is to carefully examine their basket of skills.

Sample this:

Only recently, after spending over 30 years in the armed forces, Ram Saran, a Brigadier in the ranks was contemplating quitting & joining the corporate sector; having seen a few of his fellow colleagues from the forces being successful in the BPO sector, gave a shot in the arm to Ram. A career in facility & infrastructure management in a Call Centre or BPO was a good choice as the acceptability of someone with an army background was higher for such roles. Same goes for roles such as transportation management, security, disaster management, continuity planning et al- after all, most of such skills, an armyman is well endowed with.
Ram was made an offer by an IT company in Pune which offered him a role as a Deputy Head of Facilities & Administration. Just that the Head of the function was a Captain in the army before quitting & half the Brigadierís age!

Ram thought laterally, there were several inherent skills in him which he could make use of. Just that he had to bring them out on the table. He realized that he has excellent sales skills coupled with persuasion & networking abilities. In the next 30 days, he landed himself in a plum assignment as the Head- Institutional Sales for a 1000 Cr. Indian Consumer goods firm!

What is being stressed here is that there is a well demarcated distinction between transferable and transportable skills. Transferable skills are those used in one position and related to the ones needed for the new position.

An articulation of transferable skills would be something along the order of "while I have never worked directly as a Sales Person selling a commodity, I have extensive selling and networking skills honed over the years in the army. The skills that have served me well in convincing internal customers are easily transferred to the industry setting. Transferable skills could include sales, journalism, conflict management, human resources, training and entrepreneurship. These are extremely relevant skills for several roles.

Transportable skills, are those that can directly move to the new context. This skill set is the same  in both the old position and new position, despite the context. To site the example of the Brigadier, people management, facility management, security are all transferable skills. He could say: "I have successfully handled security for large facilities, disaster management & administration in the army" the same skills would be valuable in a different context. Transportable skills could include those in accounting, finance, web design, public relations et al.

It is this ability to distinguish between the two, to be able to articulately put together the former & the latter is what would constitute an effective career management strategy.