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How transferable are my ‘transferable skills’?

2 min, 40 sec read
15:45 PM | 16 October 2015
by Sian Bayley
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For those of us who are studying the more traditional humanities subjects that have no clear career path like English and History, we have constantly been told that our ‘transferable skills’ will help us to get a job. But with the recent news that up to one third of recent graduates are in non-graduate jobs (HESA), are these transferable skills really that useful in the modern job market?

According to the National Careers Service, ‘transferable skills are general skills you can use in many jobs’ such as problem solving, organising, working to deadlines and the ability to conduct research. Sound familiar? Those 2500 word essays you’ve been churning out each week rely on these crucial skills, and are seen as particularly valuable by employers, helping you to land the job of your dreams, including those in the creative sector.

Whilst some people dismiss these as ‘soft skills’, recent research by the Sutton Trust and Upreach showed that part of the reason privately educated pupils still earn more than those that attended state schools is that they have been taught these key skills for employment.

"Knowing the facts isn’t enough in the real world…"

Knowing the facts isn’t enough in the real world - you have to be able to work in an office environment, where communication and problem solving skills are essential for success and career progression. Particularly relevant in the creative industries is the ability to work to deadlines and stay organised - skills that are developed throughout your degree as you juggle reading 3 novels, writing 2 essays and still managing to go clubbing every day of the week!

For this reason, studying more traditional humanities subjects can be just as useful for getting a job in the creative industries as more subject specific courses, whilst also leaving you with more options should you change your mind midway through your course. Whilst your friends may be studying Law, Medicine, Primary Teaching or Graphic Design, with clear career paths planned out, you shouldn’t worry that your English degree doesn’t have a specific job at the end of it. You have acquired key job skills throughout your degree and studied something you have enjoyed without having to specialise too early.

If needs be you can do a short postgraduate course to gain more job-specific skills, but in most cases your degree (along with some work experience in a sector you find interesting) will suffice. It will show employers that you have the crucial writing, organisational and problem-solving skills for almost any job, and your advanced knowledge of culture or history may even give you an edge over other candidates, especially in the creative industry which relies upon general knowledge and cultural phenomena.

"Even if you don’t get the job of your dreams straight away remember that a degree doesn’t have a shelf-life’."

Even if you don’t get the job of your dreams straight away remember that a degree doesn’t have a shelf-life’. Study what you enjoy - although it may not seem immediately relevant to your career aspirations you will develop some relevant ‘transferable skills’ regardless.

For more advice you can download our free creative industries careers guide.

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