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How candidates and employers can benefit by understanding transferable skills

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read

In the current talent market, where businesses are struggling with skills shortages, both candidates and employers alike should be considering just how beneficial transferable skills can be.

When going for a job or trying to fill a position, think about the skills that can be picked up from other professions, hobbies, or life experiences.

For instance, someone who has an interest in computers may be more naturally able to transition into an IT role, or someone who has a background in mechanics may have good problem-solving skills.


Business strategist Angela Vithoulkas said her prior experience working in hospitality has brought plenty of knowledge into other pursuits.

“In hospitality, everything is around minutes of delivery. So, it’s not like you have a project in hospitality with customer service that you can work on for the next month and refine it and get it right,” she said.

“You face a crisis almost every minute of the day. You’re short-staffed, you’ve got to deal with a crowd and deadlines. I’ve lived through days in hospitality where my restaurants were booked out with a few hundred people and we had no power. You’ve got people waiting to be fed. If you want to feel like a stressful situation, then work out how to deliver food without cooking it.”

It may not immediately spring to mind that someone with experience working in a kitchen would make an excellent business strategist, but in a stressful and fast-paced environment, you build resilience.

Ms Vithoulkas continued: “You’re only really as good as the last customer you served and whatever they ate or drank. I think that pressure-cooker environment was an advantage for politics, but being a business owner is always pushing the proverbial uphill. You’re always fighting buyers. You’re always trying to overcome, and resilient is a great word. I think it toughens you up.”

“It teaches you human skills, life skills, being kind to people and understanding that when a customer comes in, that they aren’t thinking about you. They come in usually with their own baggage and you actually have the ability to make someone happier.”

Customer service is a massive part of the hospitality industry. Working face-to-face and dealing with customers every day helps to build the core skills needed to keep them happy, which can apply to any customer-facing role.

“In a few seconds, you can help change the outcome of their day. I think we used to take that really seriously. It’s something I’ve always been really proud of that I trained and formatted a team that respected a customer’s space and their ability to be whoever they wanted to be in those few minutes that they were with us,” Ms Vithoulkas explained.

This prior experience has helped Ms Vithoulkas to excel in business strategy.

“I love that I’ve got so many different types of clients around different industries. My strategy and business consulting are very far removed from hospitality, as you can imagine, except that I’m helping owners just like me around different businesses and different sizes, too,” she said.

“When you’re a hospitality owner or a politician, it feels like a small bubble of business and issues, but there’s a lot more to the world than coffee and food, which I’m seeing every day. The commonalities are culture, people, ambition, success, resilience, how to overcome a crisis.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Angela Vithoulkas, click below:

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.