Why Identify Your Skills?
Knowing what skills you already possess is essential information for the job-seeker. Knowing your current skills profile allows you to understand what positions you are currently eligible for and what further training you need to achieve your dream job whether you are just starting out in the job market or seeking a career change.
What is a skill?
A skill is nothing more than something you do well. There are many different types of skills that are important to a job seeker. However, let’s focus on these three:
- Transferable skills – transferable skills are those which are easily applied to various situations. These include skills like ‘interpersonal, time management, and computer skills. They are general in character and can easily be used from one job to another. These skills are at the core of a successful career change.
- Technical skills – unlike transferable skills these are skills that are specifically related to a particular job or industry. For example, industry-specific computer programs that are only used in those specific environments.
- Self-management skills – are often described as personal traits. They relate to how you manage yourself in work, for example ‘detail-oriented’, or ‘reliable’.
All jobs will require a mix of these three types of skills. Using a simple self-assessment you can easily work out your top skills in each category.
What Information do you need?
The information you need about your skills depends on your goal. If you are seeking a career change and already know what sector or role you hope to move to then you need to know:
- Which technical, self-management and transferable skills your desired new role requires.
- Which of those skills you already possess to the appropriate level.
- Which skills you need to work on.
If you don’t know what job you are aiming for then you will be undertaking a different process. First you’ll use self-assessment to know what skills you currently have. Then you need to investigate where your transferable skills could take you. Finally you need to decide which path is most suitable to your interests, values, and personality.
How to Identify Your Transferable Skills
There are hundreds of skills self-assessments available online for college-leavers and those seeking a career change. They all however suffer from the same fundamental flaw – they are far too general. These self-assessments ask you to identify whether or not you can ‘read for information’ and if so whether you are above average, average, or below average at this skill. When your job searching you need to be more specific. The generalization of those kinds of assessments are not useful to job-seekers. As a result, these “pre-prepared” skills assessments can be more of a distraction than a useful exercise.
What is much more useful is simply to work it out for yourself. In doing this you will gain a much more practical and useful overview of what you are actually good at. An additional bonus this exercise will also give you most of the information you need to write your resume, CV, and cover letter. It also prepares you for interviews whether you are preparing for a career change or just starting out.
How do you create your own self-assessment?
Just follow these three steps:
- Get a list of transferable skills and self-management skills. These are a couple of helpful sites:
- Go through every single transferable skill. Ask yourself (for example in relation to the skill ‘accuracy’): ‘Have I ever been accurate? If yes, when was I accurate – in what way can I prove that I am capable of being accurate? Did being accurate come naturally to me or did I find it difficult? Could I have been more accurate in the situation?’ If you don’t know exactly what a skill is, look it up in the dictionary.
- Then go through every single self-management skill. Find the definition if you need to. Ask yourself (for example in relation to the self-management skill ‘confidence’): ‘Am I generally more confident or more timid? (You can find the opposite of words here: http://www.wordhippo.com/) If more confident – in when did I behave confidently? How can I prove that I am capable of behaving confidently? Could I have been more confident in the situation?’ Even if you are generally more timid, it is still useful to find examples of situations in which you have behaved confidently.
When you have completed this self-assessment exercise you will have a full list of transferable skills and self-management skills that you possess. You will have examples of when you demonstrated these skills and whether you’re a natural in this skill area or if you still need to develop the skills.
If you already know what careers you are interested in pursuing, you can get great information about the skills needed in that job here: http://www.kent.ac.uk/careers/compet/skillquest.htm and also here: http://www.careerinfonet.org/skills/.
If you don’t know what careers you are interested in there is a very comprehensive list of jobs and sectors here . Hopefully it will provide some exciting options for your career change.
Remember that understanding your skills is only one part of the puzzle when looking for a job. Just because a job is a good match for your skills does not mean that it will be a good match for you overall. Your perfect job will not only be a good match for your current and future skills, but will also be a job that interests you and that accords with your values in relation to what work should be.