How to Utilise Your Life Experience and Transferable Skills | Photo of a magazine, to-do list and pens |

Take strength from your experiences

Transferable skills are a core set of abilities that can be applied to different jobs and industries. They give us career flexibility and act as a strong foundation. They include all the things we’ve learnt in education, previous positions, voluntary work, hobbies and life in general. Never underestimate how much you already know!

Our experiences and transferrable skills hold the key to so much more than simply career advancement, for example, they can provide us with clarity and strength when we’re faced with problems and dilemmas. Often when we reflect on our previous experiences, we find we have all the answers we need.

‘By developing the ability to explore and be curious about our own experience and actions, we suddenly open up the possibilities of purposeful learning – derived not from books or experts, but from our work and our lives.’ – Joy Amulya

Transferable skills helped me to change my career and to build a freelance business. For example, my skills enabled me to move from retail to the art world and from the art world to educational fundraising. The same set of skills were valuable in three different work sectors and they continue to serve me today.

How to Utilise Your Life Experience and Transferable Skills | Photo of a book and some magazines |

Focus on what you’ve achieved

There are many reasons why you might wish to consider your life experience and transferable skills. Maybe you’re searching for a new job, wishing to change your career, looking to develop your existing skills or wanting to build a business or to work freelance. Whatever your motivation or objective here is a little exercise for you to try.

‘Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.’ Chinese Proverb

Take a moment to list the skills that relate to your chosen objective, for example, if you’re considering moving into fundraising you may wish to include interpersonal skills, project management, customer services and marketing. From this list, expand each header to include your experience. Don’t forget to include the things you’ve achieved outside of work, including your hobbies and any voluntary positions.

This is also a good exercise if you’d like to boost your self-confidence. When we take a little time to reflect, we’re often better qualified and more experienced than we give ourselves credit for. Taking the time to explore our skills and experience can enable us to see what we already have and use it to our advantage.

Build on your experience

Another way our transferable skills can serve us is by drawing on them in our everyday work. After all, there’s no point in starting from scratch if we already have the necessary skills in our toolkit! Our skills and experience help us to uphold our working values and give us strength when we need it.

‘Don’t underestimate yourself. You are capable of more than you can ever imagine.’ Les Brown

So today I’m sharing ten things I’ve learnt during my career that I’ve implemented into my current freelance business. Over the years, I’ve worked in different industries and managed many wonderful staff and volunteers. There have been some amazing highs and some fierce lows, but I’ve always tried to learn something from each scenario – no matter how much of a challenge it was at the time!

Drilling down into our life and work experience is insightful and it can uncover a whole set of values and beliefs which can support us in making decisions. The better our self-awareness, the easier it is to be truly authentic in the work we do.

How to Utilise Your Life Experience and Transferable Skills | Photo of a desk and a keyboard |

A few things I’ve learnt..

1. Take regular breaks

I champion the importance of taking regular breaks and holidays, not only have I seen my staff thrive after taking time out, but I’ve also seen it in my own productivity. I love implementing effective ways to work smarter and not harder, so I always create time and space to pause, reflect and recharge.

2. Display my goals

It’s easy to get bogged down with the day to day running of a business, so keeping my goals to hand enables me to stay on track. Displaying my goals works as a daily reminder, and when my life and work get busy they keep me focused on the bigger picture.

3. Meet people in the same industry

I’ve never worried about competitors because I think working together and sharing experiences is of enormous value. When I worked at Modern Art Oxford, I regularly met with people at other art organisations and as a coach, I often spend time with local coaches and mentors.

There’s so much to be gained from talking to your peers – you can share experiences and support one another. And spending time with people who are further along in their career can be a game changer!

4. Make space for personal development

I always seek out ways to build on my skills and stay up to date in my field. Personal development can be found in a range of resources including books, conferences, training courses, e-courses, blogs, podcasts and further education. Even when I’m busy I make sure I’m scheduling in time to grow and develop my skills.

5. Value every connection

Delivering impeccable service is something I champion, especially after managing Ladies Personal Shopping at Selfridges, London – the ultimate luxury shopping experience! Everyone we meet through our work – both on and offline – is a customer, potential customer or even a future colleague. It’s therefore valuable to treat everyone as we would like to be treated – even if perhaps they don’t extend us the same courtesy!

6. Make changes and try new things

When I worked as a store manager, I enjoyed visual merchandising and creating window displays. Whenever we were having a slow day or I was concerned we wouldn’t reach our target, I’d move things around. Often all it took was a refresh of the old stock to result in a flurry of sales. Nowadays when things are slow or I feel unmotivated I get out of my comfort zone, try new things and make a few changes.

7. Be brave

Most of my previous positions included event management and I learnt that no matter how much planning I did I never felt ready. With most situations, you can prepare up to a point and then you just have to jump in and learn as you go along.

8. Don’t worry about pleasing everyone

I can’t think of many jobs that don’t involve a customer and having worked in retail management, I’ve had more than my fair share of customer complaints! Although I dislike the phrase, ‘the customer is always right,’ it’s good to listen, ask the customer what they would like and try to put things right. You can’t please everyone so it’s wise not to waste too much time on the complainers – that said, it’s always valuable to welcome constructive feedback.

9. Nail the business basics

Whether it’s getting an accountant, taking out business insurance, learning about health and safety or developing my skills, I feel it’s important to invest in myself and my business. This enables everything to run (relatively!) smoothly and it also means I can identify the risks. When running a business, it’s lovely to have one less thing to worry about.

10. Don’t sweat the small stuff

I try not to put too much pressure on myself or be overly critical if things go wrong. There are valuable lessons to be learnt from failure and most of all it can enable growth. It’s good to focus on our successes and not to dwell on our mistakes.

And finally, the best thing about our life experience and transferable skills is they make us unique. So, embrace what you know, be grateful for where you are and open to who you’re becoming, after all, who knows what skills you’ll be able to add to your toolkit today!

Further reading

Practical tips to help you reach your goals
How to avoid distraction when you’re striving for personal and professional success
Bring your dreams and goals to life with a vision board

Thank you, as always, for stopping by. I hope you have an inspiring day!