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The Most Relevant Transferable Skills

Through the completion of the qualitative questionnaire and during the focus group meetings, the research participants chose and discussed which transferable skills they believed to be the most important to their current and/or future professional activity, from the list considered by Cabral-Cardoso et al. [47] in their research also conducted in the Portuguese context (represented in Table 2). Table 3 summarizes the graduate students’ opinions and presents illustrative quotes.

These results are rather different from those found 10 years ago by Cabral-Cardoso et al. [47], when working with students and graduates from the north of Portugal. It coincided only in the relevance attributed to planning and organization skills, as well as motivation/personal drive. On the other hand, the

Table 3 The ten most relevant transferable skills according to the study participants

Transferable Skills

Illustrative quotes

Planning and organization

Eva (32 years): The skills that are lacking when people leave university, such as how to organise, knowing how to plan, being able to solve difficult problems...


Helena (32 years): One of the skills I find important to develop is that of problem-solving


Lucas (34 years): Having the capacity to adapt... For example, in my career we are always changing from one place to another

Creativity and innovation

Bruno (35 years): Creativity is very important! But, at the same time, it is one of the skills which is most difficult to develop


Maria (27 years): Mastering information technology is a key selection criterion to my organization


Lucas (34 years): All military personnel must have this skill [leadership]


Samuel (27 years): Teams must be able to work towards the same goals

Oral communication

Diana (35 years): I highlight oral communication: if I can’t understand and adjust my discourse to who is on the other side, I may lose out on the business



Monica (30 years): It’s important to know how to work with different people: people from different contexts, with particular experiences and specific problems



Maria (27 years): Being motivated helps you to deal with frustration!

importance of oral communication and interpersonal skills expressed by participants in this current study was also detected in the study carried out by Andrews and Higson [18], which covered four European countries (UK, Austria, Slovenia, and Romania). In the case of ICT and teamwork skills, these were already evaluated as being especially pertinent by graduate and undergraduate students further afield in New Zealand [55]. Various other studies point to an identical perception of the importance of skills in the areas of planning, organization, oral communication [11, 13, 40], adaptability [57], leadership [6, 46], motivation/personal drive [7], as well as creativity and innovation [40]. The results indicate that there has been some development in comparison with the data collected by Cabral-Cardoso et al. [47]. Moreover, they show greater proximity between the perceptions of students in Portugal and those of other countries regarding the identification of the transferable skills that are deemed as particularly important to competent job performance. This result does not seem to be extraneous to the increasing similarity of the structures and curricular programmes of higher education [58], as well as to the complex needs imposed by the increasingly global business world.

From the list of transferable skills presented in Table 3, participants elected the following as being those which they already reveal significant development: problem-solving, adaptability, and motivation/personal drive. On the other hand, they admitted a weaker development in the skills related to interpersonal relationships. The respondents also considered that some of these transferable skills are easier to acquire/develop through formal mechanisms and programmes (e.g. ICT) than others (e.g. creativity and innovation).

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