Transferable skills

Transferable skills could be acquired through your current job, previous jobs, volunteering, or life experience. The great thing about these skills is that they are portable; you can transfer them across all sorts of different roles, specialisms and industries.

This page explores how to identify and use transferable skills to further your career.

What are transferable skills?

Some skills are specific, like venepuncture, checking vital signs, etc. However, others are non-specific like communication, teamwork, leadership, mentoring, etc. These are called "transferable skills."

You’d probably be surprised to find out how many skills you’ve already got without realising.

Applying your transferable skills - How portable is your skill set?  

How many times have you thought, “I’d really like to apply for this job, but I don’t have the necessary experience or skills.”

This is when your transferable skills could come in.

Have a look at the list below to help you identify which transferable skills you have.  

Activisim (See Become an RCN rep)
Adaptability and flexibility
Capacity to work independently
Capacity to work effectively within a team
Case management
Critical thinking
Decision making
Empathy / compassion
Ethical issues
Evidence based practice
Governance Health promotion
Interpersonal skills
Leadership and management
Legal issues
Occupational hygiene
Planning and organisation
Problem solving
Project management
Quality assurance
Risk assessment
Self-evaluation skills
Taking initiative
Time management
Verbal communication skills
Written communication skills

How to use transferable skills when applying for a job

Let’s say for example you see a vacancy for a managerial role which states that leadership skills are essential.

If you've never formally been a manager before, don't let this put you off; you'd be surprised how you can use transferable skills to demonstrate your capability as a leader.

Here are some examples:

"As a Senior HCA on my unit, I'm responsible for organising the HCA team, helping them to prioritise their workloads, delegating tasks and motivating the team through 121s. I also act as a role model through coaching, supervising and supporting new staff and junior HCA’s, and was recently nominated for Employee of the Year. "

“I often took charge of a busy 20 bedded ward during my last post as a band 5 staff nurse. This involved acting up in the absence of the manager, coordinating the running of the ward, overseeing bed management, and leading and supporting both the nursing and support staff."

“I gained excellent skills in leadership and management from when I took charge of a Service Improvement project. I organised and led a group of 15 colleagues to deliver an effective strategy within a strict time frame. This involved negotiating and influencing others to come on board, and communicating the new changes within the wider team.”

“As a student rep at university, I played an active role in driving positive change within the University to ensure the needs of students were met. As well as being the first point of contact for my cohort, I supported students to raise concerns, and was in charge of organising and chairing meetings."

“I recently initiated and implemented a Practice Nurse Network Group in my area. I led the group to discuss issues affecting primary care, identify opportunities for collaborative working, keep up to date with changes in legislation and share best practice. I made sure the group had a clear aim at all times and was pivotal in ensuring any objectives were achieved."

“I have excellent skills in leadership from when I organised a charity event to raise funds for my local hospice. This involved motivating and engaging the local community to get involved, promoting the event, and proactively seeking opportunities to be interviewed by the local press and radio. I worked within a tight budget and was responsible for the collection and management of funds raised.”

“Prior to my nursing career, I worked in retail as a team leader where I supported a team of 10 sales assistants and oversaw the running of the shop floor. I was accountable for ensuring all staff completed mandatory training, auditing the stock, and scheduling the staff rota. I have effective people management skills through carrying out monthly 121, appraisals and addressing any staff performance issues appropriately. This combined with my 3 years' nursing experience I feel would make me an excellent candidate for the role.”

Contact us

Want to learn new skills whilst helping others?

If you're an RCN member in employment, you can apply to become an RCN steward, safety representative or learning representative.

Become an RCN rep
Careers nurse uniform closeup 250x100

Nurses and Midwives

Resources for nurses and midwives: improve your employability or explore options and ideas if you're at a career crossroads.

Careers HCA green uniform closeup 250x100

Nursing Support Workers

Career resources for Health Practitioners, including HCAs, Assistant Practitioners, Nursing Associates and Support Workers.

Student officer uniform 250 x 100

Student and NQ nurses

Resources to help you write your first nursing CV or job application, and tips on how to stand out at interview.