Transferable skills for global health

Transferable skills are important to emphasize throughout job applications and interviews – especially if you’re new to the Global Health field. Sarah Grace’s last article on ThriveHire outlined ways to jumpstart your career in Global Health. And within that article, she spoke about the importance of developing transferable skills.

What are transferable skills exactly?

As a young professional, there are always ways to develop core skills that can transfer from one field to another, such as Global Health. By working in any position (like research, sales, customer services, administration, etc.), you’re gaining important skills and exposure, which can make you a strong candidate for an upcoming Global Health position. 

So what are relevant transferable skills for Global Health, and how can I acquire them as an aspiring professional? Here are a few to consider!

1. Effective communication

To successfully work in teams at both local and international levels, effective communication is of paramount importance. Effective and clear communication allows people to understand your points and information clearly. This reduces errors from miscommunication, and it can lead to more productive working relationships. Whether you’re drafting clear and concise emails, delivering engaging presentations, creating enticing reports that concisely demonstrate the success of a project… effective communication is key!

How do I do this?

There are ways you can become an effective communicator, both written and orally:

Written communication: Spend time editing your work assignments. Editing allows you to see where your points are redundant, unclear and/or convoluted. You can even ask a friend or colleague to review your work – it can be a helpful way to find out which points are unclear!

Oral communication: When speaking with others – whether that’s at work, at school, or at a networking event – try to get in the habit of getting to your points as quickly as possible. For instance, if someone asks you a question such as, “Tell me what you’re passionate about”, take a second to pause first. Then try to answer the core of their question right away (ideally in the first sentence). Otherwise, people may get lost in your thoughts. It takes a bit of practice, but once you get in the habit of stating your points quickly and concisely, it will become a lot easier for others to follow your points. And in turn, you’ll find you’re becoming a much more effective communicator.

2. Technical Skills

At the end of the day, employers are looking to hire people with a set of technical skills to ensure they can do the work that will be required of them. So it’s important to consider what technical skills can be applied to a career in Global Health.

How do I do this?

Especially if you’re new to the Global Health field, take some time to reflect on relevant technical skills that you’ve gained throughout your previous work and/or volunteer experiences.

For instance, did you undertake research work during university? If so, you’ve gained evaluation skills, which you can then emphasize for that new Monitoring & Evaluation position that you’re applying for. Or perhaps you’ve taken part in social media marketing. You can raise this to a non-profit who’s looking to boost their online presence. Or have you recently become familiar with the applications of e-health technology, a growing area of Global Health?

These are just a few technical skills sought after by many Global Health employers. And they’re great strengths to emphasize in job applications!

3. Inter-professional team work

As you begin your career, you’re likely learning ways to effectively work in inter-professional teams. Demonstrated skills in inter-professional teamwork and collaboration are sought after by many employers – they show you’re able to work in teams with diverse knowledge, skill-sets and perspectives. And this is particularly relevant to Global Health work, where you’re often working in cross-cultural settings to achieve a common goal.

How do I do this?

Take time to reflect on relevant experiences that have allowed you to work in diverse team environments. What lessons did you learn along the way? These are great points to raise in an interview! Or have you not worked in many inter-professional and/or cross-cultural settings? If so, try researching organizations and apply for opportunities that will allow you to work in these types of teams and environments.

4. Stakeholder Engagement

The ability to engage and successfully problem-solve, especially when working with various stakeholder groups, is particularly important to Global Health work. Global Health projects often entail stakeholders coming together from different disciplines, many of whom can have unique motivations, interests and reasons for getting involved in projects. Many times, the needs and interests of these different stakeholder groups can be aligned, but sometimes, they’re not. As Global Health professionals, it’s important to know how to navigate these situations. Strong stakeholder engagement allows you to understand the goals of different groups to increase your odds of working together effectively.

How do I do this?

Effective stakeholder engagement can be done by first identifying the needs or priorities of different groups that you’re working with. Especially when designing projects, it’s helpful to bring these stakeholders together so you can mutually develop plans that clearly outline everyone’s interests and goals. If conflicts arise in the process, it’s important to recognize and acknowledge them, and to try to break them down through open communication. These dialogues can lead to potential solutions being formed in your teams and stakeholders groups.

During this process, it’s also important to display empathy, especially when working with vulnerable communities. When working in such settings, it’s crucial to display cultural sensitivity and to acknowledge that different perspectives may be present. These skills can be developed through various positions, including those centered around customer service where you’re trying to understand and meet the specific needs of various customers/clients.

5. Time Management Skills

Within any role, both in and outside of the Global Health landscape, it’s important to demonstrate effective time management skills.By using your time effectively and by having an ability to correctly prioritize tasks, it ensures your work can be completed in a timely manner and to a high level of quality.

How do I do this?

As a student, you are inevitably juggling many courses and commitments at once. This experience can show an employer that you’re able to effectively manage your time and competing priorities. Similarly, have you taken a summer job or internship where you completed many administrative tasks? If so, you likely gained strong organizational skills, which you can then mention during your next job interview.

Key takeaways

No matter what position you’re currently in, be confident that you are developing core transferable skills, which can be applied to a successful career in Global Health!


April 15, 2019


Sarah Grace Bebenek