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Identify Transferable Skills

Transferable skills are defined as skills you may have learned in one occupation or through life experience that you can also use in another occupation. These skills are often more general in nature, yet an important part of making a career decision. This section discusses not only transferable skills, but the strengths you have identified and the questions you may have about the changes in your skill sets  due to any recent injuries you may have incurred. 



“My determination and sheer willpower has enabled me to be successful despite my injury.”
“Perseverance, determination, and a good sense of humor.” 
“I have a passion for what I want to be.”
Knowing what your strengths are and what skills you already possess is important in making a career decision. Everyone has strengths or things they do well, but we often feel self conscious talking about them or become speechless when asked about them in an interview. Strengths can involve skills, qualities, and personal characteristics. They can be formally identified in a number of ways including aptitude tests or by consistent course grades. Another way to identify strengths occurs by talking with people who know you well, like your spouse, supervisor, instructors, and friends. Lastly, you can learn about your strengths through personal experiences and activities. By participating in extracurricular activities, community organizations and volunteer work, particular strengths can be discovered and further developed.
What kinds of skills are employers looking for?  For starters, general skills can be divided into four areas: basic skills, people skills, thinking skills, and personal qualities. Print and scan the Foundation Skills and highlight those that you possess. Ask a family member or someone you trust to also check the skills they feel you have. Compare notes and discuss your differences. 

Transferable Skills

No doubt you have acquired many skills in the military, but may be thinking “How can being an infantryman help me in another career?” The Military Skills Translator (through a free email registration) provides a listing of equivalent civilian occupations such as security guards or private detectives. Both fields require the ability to quickly respond (with the hand, finger, or foot) to a signal (sound, light, picture) when it appears or knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions. Spend some time exploring your own military experience to see how your acquired skills can be used in civilian occupations.
Checklists are an excellent way to rate your own skills. Seeing the skills may jog your memory or help you to evaluate your abilities. If you can identify your own skills, you can use the Skills Profiler that provides a breakdown of basic skills, technical skills, problem solving, social, and management skills. Through this self check, a listing of potential jobs that require a college education can be obtained.

Injury Related Changes

Regardless of whether you have had an injury or acquired a disability, assessing strengths and challenges is an important task for any self-aware adult. Some of your abilities may be different now and this understandably may influence your career goals. Adjusting to and eventually accepting life after an injury requires time, determination, and the support of others. Tammy Duckworth provides a great example of impressive accomplishments post injury. By working with your physical, speech, and occupational therapists on a regular basis, you may understand the daily impact of your injury and discover new ways to accomplish tasks.
Depending on the significance of your injury, you may be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The broad term disability includes any individual with an impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities, such as include learning and walking. It is important to know that there are many federal and campus resources available that can support qualified individuals to successfully complete a class or perform a skill on the job using different approaches. Employers have easy access to information about how to accommodate employees with brain injuries or those with spinal cord injuries. Virginia also provides information about assistive technology that can be explored for specific challenges. So when choosing a career, work with others to identify your skills, ways to compensate for new challenges related to your injury, and strategies that employers might use to accommodate you on the job.  

Take charge through goal setting

Many veterans created a short and long-term plan for their military career, and the same kind of forward thinking can help you as a civilian as well. Your long-term goals can be a career, a position, or even a retirement age or bank account balance. These goals don’t happen overnight, and it may take years of smaller, short-term goals in order to reach the long-term goal. Also, goals may change as circumstances change.

For instance, getting a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology might be your long-term goal when you take your first community college class, but that goal can’t happen without a smaller goal of passing that first class and transferring to the university. As you learn more about your passions, skills, and preferences, you may want to rethink your goals and how they fit your life and ambitions. Once you get your bachelor’s degree in Psychology, you may want to practice as a licensed therapist which requires additional schooling and, therefore, another long-term goal.


Long-term Goal: Become a licensed and employed science teacher
Short-Term Goals:
  • Finish associate’s degree in education 
  • Transfer all credits to the university
  • Gain experience as a volunteer or part-time tutor
  • Complete student teaching experience
  • Finish Bachelor’s degree in Education
  • Get national endorsement for increased pay
These long-term goals can help you to keep your focus. Short-term goals can and should build toward long-term goals. For instance, securing an internship or gaining job experience in your desired career field can really help build toward that long-term career goal. Other short-term goals can include maintaining a certain GPA to help you enter graduate school after graduation. Short-term goals lead up to the big-picture success for which you’ll work.
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