Transferable skills – the key to success
Professionals are more aware than ever of the importance of having a good knowledge and understanding of their field and the security sector is no exception. However, it is easy to overlook the importance of also developing a versatile, transferable skill set alongside expertise in a chosen discipline. In fact, transferable skills should be a key component of any curriculum vitae (CV), particularly in a challenging economic climate where the ability to demonstrate good transferable skills will provide a significant competitive advantage.
What are transferable skills?
Very simply, transferable skills are competencies that can be applied across a range of different settings. Examples of transferable skills include (but are in no way limited to):
- Evaluation/critical thinking
- Information gathering/research
- Organisation/planning/time management
Some skills, such as good leadership, might be hard to teach and/or linked to personality traits (think about how often influential commanders, politicians, or heads of state are described as “born leaders”). Therefore, if an individual has a natural aptitude for a particular skill, it is useful to emphasise this. Where training has enhanced natural ability (e.g. learning good practice in leadership and management), this will provide good evidence of skills to any potential employer or client. Other skills, such as good time management, are primarily developed through experience, and are no less important to emphasise.
Why are transferable skills important?
The bottom line is that transferable skills are flexible. Unfortunately, the importance of transferable skills is often overlooked as focus is placed on recruiting people with the right knowledge of a subject area, rather than thinking about how well they will be able to apply that knowledge on the ground. Take training for example; we have all attended sessions where the trainer clearly knows the subject area well but is not able to communicate this knowledge effectively. Similarly, being knowledgable about something does not mean someone is well equipped to present it to the Board of Directors. It is simply not enough to “know your stuff”, the individual must also be able to apply knowledge appropriately and communicate key messages with colleagues to maximise performance.
There are clearly many examples of transferable skills but there is not enough space to discuss them all in detail here. However, some skills are applicable in more areas, and/or are more flexible, than others and so merit a more in-depth discussion.
Effective leadership relies on a range of transferable skills including negotiation, communication, decision making, tasking, and delegation. Leadership is one of the most valuable skills an individual can have, particularly in a close protection environment. The leaders of close protection teams are responsible for the safety of their client and their team and it is important that they are able to make quick, effective decisions in what can be life or death situations. The high pressure environment places even more emphasis on strong leadership qualities as the team leader will not only need to provide a good example to other team members but may also need to actively support and reassure their team as a situation becomes increasingly hazardous. Put simply, poor leadership can have dire consequences and it is so important that the right person with the right skills is placed in the leadership role.
Managers need to be able to task and delegate whilst retaining an overview of what is happening in their area of responsibility. Managers also need to strike a balance between motivating their team and maintaining authority. Managers need to be able to adapt to the working styles of different people, responding to their individual needs and may need to utilise different management styles to suit different people. A good manager can be difficult to recruit and so the ability to demonstrate strong skills in these areas will always enhance a CV.
Good communication skills are fundamental. Whether written or oral, it is important that colleagues are able to communicate with one another effectively. Close protection teams are reliant on good communications in order to achieve the task at hand, and again, the consequences of poor performance can be life threatening. Learning how to communicate effectively, particularly in high pressured environments, is a key skill for both close protection team leaders and their teams.
The benefits of developing effective time management and organisational skills are obvious and can clearly be applied to any situation. In a close protection environment, the parallels between good organisational skills and effective operations planning are obvious. Furthermore these kinds of transferable skills are not only transferable across workplace and sector but can also extend to other areas of life. For example, effective time management allows people to complete tasks more efficiently, freeing up time to spend on social or leisure activities.
Adaptability and responding to risk
One final skill that is worth emphasising is adaptability. Being able to respond to a changing environment, particularly a potentially dangerous one, is a key skill. It is also arguably the most important to emphasise in a close protection context where it is imperative to identify and respond to threats quickly and effectively.
How to demonstrate transferable skills
Firstly, although all transferable skills are useful, it is important to identify the most relevant transferable skills for the job or role you are interested in. Good communication skills and teamwork are likely to be close to the top of any list but other key skills may differ. For example, a managerial role is likely to look for skills such as negotiation and tasking whereas a research role will place more emphasis on strong critical thinking and problem solving.
In terms of demonstrating transferable skills the first opportunity is through the application or tender process. These showcase writing skills and presentation style. Phrasing is important. It is not enough to state “I am a good team leader”. You need to provide examples of where you have had a leadership role, e.g. “I led a team of X number of people for Y amount of time for Z type of operation”. List your responsibilities and provide examples of how you dealt with difficult situations thus demonstrating skills such as problem solving and negotiation.
Interviews provide another opportunity to showcase your skills. Businesses may filter candidates by qualification initially but they use interviews to test knowledge and “get a feel” for a candidate. How you conduct yourself in an interview gives the employer a glimpse of how you work in a professional environment. They will use the interview to assess communication skills and problem solving (amongst other skills).
This article aimed to highlight what transferable skills are and why they are important. Hopefully, this aim has been achieved and you are now thinking about how to develop, identify, and utilise your own transferable skills. Life is a learning experience and we should all take the opportunity to develop our transferable skills wherever possible. This can be supplemented with training in specific areas to further enhance transferable skills.
Amy Burrell, Training Consultant
Contact: 0116 222 5550