This project is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme

Transferrable Skills That All Small Businesses Need

DATE: 08/04/21


When you’re considering a change of professional direction, you’ll no doubt spend some time putting together your CV and thinking about the types of roles you can move into. This can be challenging a times. In particular if you’ve been in one industry for a significant period, imagining a crossover into a different sector or role can seem unlikely.  But don’t be fooled into thinking that you don’t have the skills to move into a position in a small business. Or for that matter to start up your own small business. No matter what industry or sector you have experience in, there are some key transferable skills that are universally valued. And are, in fact, vital for the growth and success of a small business.

We’ve put together 6 of the most prized transferrable skills essential to progress in any professional position. Consider them in relation to your own professional experience and you’ll see that you have more skills than you realise to enable you to move to the area of your choice.



Communication is king. Whether it’s verbal, written, being a good listener, or via one of the many online communication programs, how we talk with and to others, inside and outside of our organisation is crucial. Regardless of your industry or role, you’re communicating constantly, with your colleagues, with suppliers, with your customers and you’ll have been developing those skills without realising it.  Bring a strong communicator, in particular during a crisis is a much sought after quality so think about how you’ve been using your communication skills and just how you can hone them and apply them to your next position. Perhaps you have years of experience in sales and your verbal skills are excellent but you feel you’d like to work on your written communications a little more? Or vice versa, you’ve been in a more internal role and would like to improve your customer facing skills? Whatever the gap, taking time to focus on that will be of value to any small business.



From creative thinking to problem solving, from cleverly seeking out opportunities to figuring out how to pivot in times of challenge, being creative in how you think and apply solutions is the beating heart of any small business. Unlike larger businesses whose structure is weighty and change can take time, small businesses are fortunate enough to be able to shape and change their direction and approach quickly and responsively. The individuals within that business need to approach each day with that in mind, being aware of what’s going on in their industry, the economy, with their customers, and being creative in how they respond to that. The requirement for creativity means that small businesses are always interesting, they are the people who comprise them and it can be incredibly exciting and rewarding to be part of that creative whole.


Critical Thinking

Most of us will have grown up finding solutions to problems. From childhood right through to our professional lives, we’ve been constantly fixing things and finding answers to questions. Being a critical thinker is just that. It’s considering all the facts, understanding their environment and coming to a conclusion on which path to take. We do it in our every day lives and in most jobs irrespective of the role or industry. It’s important to identify your critical thinking skills and recognise that they are of great value in a fast moving small business.



Small businesses are all about teamwork. Most often they don’t have a huge staff or deep resources so it’s important that everyone in the team functions well together. From collaboration on product launches to putting together strategies for growth, it’s key that everyone has a global understanding of the organisation, and their role in it. Even if you currently work alone, it’s likely that you have had experience collaborating with someone else at some stage of your professional life. Being able to apply what you’ve learnt through those experiences is essential. Finding ways to work independently but as a focused integral part of a close team is what defines a small business.


Leadership as well as team work can be part of your role in a small business. That can mean leading a whole team, or just a direct report, or it could mean being in charge of a project, from launch to delivery. Being ‘in charge’ within a small business essentially requires a self motivated individual who understands their personal and organisational responsibilities and can action those. Responsibilities can be fluid so having a leadership and collaborative mindset is essential. Taking a leadership role helps relationship building, it helps problem-solving and builds confidence through the team.



It sounds obvious but it’s far more valuable than you realise. Being competent at multi tasking, at organising your work, your budget, your team, all of these skills are hugely valuable in any business. Bringing a basic competence in technology is essential regardless of the industry or position. Being aware of and respectful of deadlines, of sensitivities, of the mission of your business, may sound basic but they are valuable nonetheless. If you are a self starter, if you can work without supervision and deliver on your responsibilities, you’ll be an asset. Small businesses often require a horizontal approach to work so being someone who is willing to keep learning, to take on new skill sets and to contribute, will make you highly desirable. All of these fundamental competences help small businesses run efficiently and effectively.

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking your experience means you can’t apply for a job in a different sector, or you’d be unable to set up a business in a new area. We’re here to tell you that is not the case. It’s clear that being a generalist with a strong set of transferrable skills is far more compelling than boxing yourself into specific areas. Be open-minded about what you’ve done in your professional life and think how your experience can be applied in new circumstances. Having that ability to stretch and see the opportunities rather than the limitations will open your horizons considerably.



Whatever your business idea, whether it’s just something you’ve been mulling over or whether you’ve taken some steps on the entrepreneurial path already, we’d love to help. Read some of our Go For It Success Stories and get in touch . Our business experts will be delighted to hear from you and to talk you through everything you might need to know to move forward with your business concept.