Skill Portability: Representative Skills and Portability

(9/17/2016 – These posts have been expanded in a book, Skill Portability: A Guide To Moving Skills Between Jobs)

So we’re discussing how you can port skills from job to job and career to career.  I use the acronym DARE to represent the different kinds of Skill Portability – Direct, Advantageous, Representative, and Enhancing.  I’ve already covered Direct and Advantageous, so it’s time to get to Representative.

There are some skills that really don’t matter to the job.  They may not even provide any advantages.  They could be irrelevant, they could be in your past, they could be from a previous career.

Think of the skills that you leave behind when you move up in the world.  Project Managers that were once Engineers no longer program.

Think of the skills that change when you switch professions.  That old software package you used at one publisher isn’t used at the new one.

Think of the skills that change with time.  Those computer language that no longer are the hip thing to write in, the database no one uses, the vendor long gone and bought out.

These skills and knowledges sound useless, left to the necropolis of past careers and past experiences, but they’re not useless it all.  They speak of what you did, of how you got where you are.  They tell stories of who you were and what you became, and the speak, in a way of what you may be.

In short, they’re Representative of who you are and of your career and life trajectory.  They speak of you – you just don’t use them anymore.

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Skill Portability:Advantageous Skills and Portability

(9/17/2016 – These posts have been expanded in a book, Skill Portability: A Guide To Moving Skills Between Jobs)

Last column I discussed my quick guide to figuring out how to port skills form job to job and career to career.  My somewhat annoying acronym is “DARE”, with each letter, unsurprisingly, reminding you of the four ways you can identify portable skills.

Last week it was D – Direct.  The boring realization some skills are just directly useful.  You probably got that.

This week it’s “A” – Advantageous Skills.

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Exploring Skill Portability

(9/17/2016 – These posts have been expanded in a book, Skill Portability: A Guide To Moving Skills Between Jobs)

OK my Progeeks, let’s talk skill portability.

We all know stuff.  We all learn stuff.  That’s part of what makes us the geeks we are – we can’t stop learning and doing things.  Be it part of our job or part of our bobbie, we’re good (or at least impressively mediocre) at a lot of things.

So when the job search comes up, when we’re talking to clients, when we’re considering a business, we need to consider our skills.  But when we face the transitions that are so common in businesses and careers we have to ask ourselves “what am I going to do with this skill?”

You know the situation:

  • You know some things but do they actually go on your resume?
  • You were great at something that’s no longer relevant to your job – does it matter?  Should you not talk about it?
  • You’ve changed companies or industries – is what you know even going to help you?
  • You want to port skills from hobbies into your career search.

In short – knowing how and when to port your skills over in careers is vitally important.  The fact I’m also talking about it is an indicator that I really don’t think it’s something discussed enough.

First of all, let’s talk why it’s important to work on skill portability, be it asking if you actually keep honing a skill, or simply if something goes on your resume.

Portability Saves Time: If you have relevant skills right now, ones you are growing or have gotten to a high level, you may not need to develop others from scratch.  Alternately, a skill you work to actively “port” into your career may help you develop others.

Portability Shows History: We don’t spring fully formed from a parent’s head like Minerva.  When we write off huge chunks of what we know on the job search we seem washed-out, lacking context, and shallow.  Also people kind of wonder what’s wrong with you.

Portability Prevents Wasting Time: If you work to port your skills over then you won’t spend time developing skills you don’t need, trying to communicate your abilities without noting the skill, etc.

Portability Gets You Thinking: I’ve found that evaluating your skills and how they can be used elsewhere really helps you get a sense of yourself and what you can do.

Portability Lets You Go Progeek: When you ask how you can port your skills, you can include your hobbies.

Hopefully you didn’t need too much convincing to think about skill portability.  But if you did, you’re welcome.

So what are the ways to port your skills?  The question is to ask which category they fit into, and I’ve got a handy mnemonic for them: DARE:

  • Direct
  • Advantageous
  • Representative
  • Enhancing

So next column let’s cover the Direct category . . .

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at