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ZD Guides: Top Transferable Skills

Top 10 Transferable Skills

Some skills aren’t just valuable in retail, they’re valuable everywhere. Which means you don’t have to have worked in retail to develop them…

If you spend as much time as we do looking at retail job ads, you’ll quickly realise that retailers tend to look for two types of skills. There are the specific, key retail skills an employer will want you to possess. These might be things like knowing how to make a pop-up concession a success, store-opening skills or product knowledge. If you’re wanting to work with a retailer who sells electrical goods, for example, they might want you to know your LED tv screen from your OLED and QLED.

Then there are transferable skills – the more general skillset that will be valuable in a retail environment but could be just as valuable in lots of other jobs and industries too.
You might think the top retail skills an employer will be looking for will be the specific ones – and sometimes that is the case, especially if you’re going into a senior or specialist role.

But don’t underestimate the transferables, because they’re the retail CV skills that will be part of every application. For some jobs, they may make up most or even all of the requirements.
So which retail transferable skills are most requested by our clients? We’re glad you asked…

Which retails skills are transferable?

  1. Customer service

    Required for literally every customer-facing role we’ve ever recruited for, customer service is a combination of empathy, warmth, product and process knowledge and the simple desire to want to be helpful.
    Yet while it is comfortably our top retail skill, its certainly not only applicable to the retail world. If you’ve worked in healthcare, IT, fitness, travel or any other sector where you’re dealing with customers, the ability to serve them in a way that keeps them happy and loyal to the brand is essential.

  2. Problem solving

    A customer has asked a question for which there is no obvious answer. Something unexpected has happened on the shop floor and you need to respond. The delivery has arrived and you’re two people down. What do you do?

    If the application form asks you to describe a time when you solved a problem, it’s great if you have a retail-specific answer up your sleeve. But if you don’t, you can still create a great answer based on your broader problem-solving experience because problems need solving in every walk of life, not just retail. 

  3. Commercial mindset

    A regular requirement for virtually every managerial role you’ll ever see, a ‘commercial mindset’ is sort of code for being able to see the business impact of the decisions you make. If you decide to capitalise on a heatwave by moving all the BBQ products to the front of the store – to take a very simple example – that’s a commercial mindset, but you’ll also find this requirement at more senior levels, where your strategic decisions will be expected to be built on data, evidence and an understanding of the commercial impact of any decision you make.

  4. Teamwork

    The retailers we work with are staffed by dozens, hundreds and sometimes thousands of people, so it’s hardly surprising that teamwork is one of the key retail skills we’re asked to find.
    Teamwork is about more than simply getting along with others. It’s the ability to collaborate and share ideas in the workspace, to use your combined strengths to achieve results, and to support others when they need it. 

  5. Working under pressure

    Retail is often a fast-paced world and it’s common to find yourself juggling lots of competing priorities. Being able to keep those plates spinning without dissolving into a heap is a key retail CV skill, but you can demonstrate it in lots of ways, from retail, from other industries you’ve worked in or – if you’ve had to juggle work, caring responsibilities, study, voluntary roles and 27 other things – everyday life.

  6. Attention to detail

    It always feels a little odd to make attention to detail one of the required retail skills for your CV. After all, it’s not as if anyone would ever recruit the opposite, is it?

    But this isn’t really about finding people who aren’t slapdash. It’s about wanting the traits that add up to ‘attention to detail’. Diligence. Accuracy. An ability to self-review and self-edit effectively. And you don’t need to have worked in retail to demonstrate those.

  7. Self-management/self-starter

    This is really about initiative and taking responsibility. Do you have the awareness and oomph to do the things that need to be done without someone telling you to do them? In a retail sense, that might involve taking it upon yourself to resolve a customer complaint, filling a gap on the shelves or carrying out that stock count that nobody wants to do.

    In an application though, you can demonstrate being a self-starter in lots of ways outside the retail world.

  8. Numeracy

    You’d be surprised just how often maths comes into play in a retail context. Perhaps it’s helping a customer with their credit application or handling cash. Maybe it’s working out how much of a discount to offer, or having the analytical skills to look at a page of data and see what it means for your store’s profitability.

    It won’t have escaped your notice, though, that numbers don’t only occur in retail, and that’s why numeracy is another of our top retail transferable skills.

  9. Interpersonal skills

    Of all the key retail skills, this one connects with the other transferables on this list more than any other. ‘Interpersonal skills’ is a short way of describing all the skills we use every day to get along with people. It’s the ability to listen and the confidence to speak. It’s the ability to say what you mean, to pick up on non-verbal signals, and to empathise with someone else’s position.

    It’s an essential ingredient in customer service and teamwork, but it’s an important part of working under pressure and problem solving too, because when things get difficult, your ability to communicate with others can be the key to success.

  10. Cultural capability

    For many retailers, it’s important that staff aren’t just respectful of other cultures, genders, ethnicities, sexualities, abilities etc (that’s a given) but that new recruits have a level of cultural understanding that can help them better serve people who may need help in accessing some services. Those sorts of skills and experiences can, of course, be developed anywhere. 

Getting a job with your retail transferable skills

For many (particularly more junior) retail roles, you may not need retail specific skills on your CV if you’ve collected lots of transferable skills from elsewhere. You will, however, need to make sure that you connect the skills you have with the job you’re applying for, so you leave a potential employer in no doubt that you’ll be a positive addition to the team.

To find your next role in retail – and to put all those transferable skills to work – talk to us.

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