A step by step guide on how to identify your key skills and abilities

skills and abilities

In previous posts, I’ve spoken about the importance of knowing your own skills and many other experts agree that without understanding your own skills, you will struggle to convey them to a potential employer.  What I began to notice when working with clients is that, whilst most people understood the importance of being able to articulate their skills, they struggled with how to really know what their key skills and abilities were.  So, if you too are in this predicament, worry no longer.  By following the step-by-step guide below, you will not only clarify your key skills and abilities so you can impress employers with them, but also understand what skills you prefer to use, which will shape your job hunt.

Who might find identifying their skills and abilities useful?

Well, the answer is probably everyone!  This exercise will especially work for anyone who falls into one or more of these groups.

1. Anyone considering a career change

2. Anyone looking to identify transferable skills

3. Anyone suffering from low confidence

4. Anyone who is confused about the current direction of their career

5. Anyone who hasn’t updated their CV for a while

Hints and tips before you start

Take your time; you will need to make many revisions.  Try looking at old CVs, job records, etc. to jog your memory; try not to exclude any jobs or roles just because you didn’t like them.  The effort you put in here will pay dividends later in your job hunt.

Don’t judge yourself! Have you ever caught yourself going to write something, but then the little mean voice in your head says “that’s stupid” or “you’ll spell it wrong”?  Well ignore it!  Write whatever pops into your head. You may decide to delete it later, move it to another heading or break it down into several different ideas. Whatever you do, don’t pre-edit.  Brainstorming is a great way of preventing this.  Set a timer and give yourself a certain amount of time to write as many ideas as possible and then keep repeating, until you have everything you want documented.

Step one

Grab yourself a piece of paper and start to think of all of the skills you use whilst at work.

Try not to just write “managing a team”, but think about what skills were you using; e.g. coaching, leadership skills, communication.  By using these skills, what action did you generate? E.g “I helped people to develop by using a coaching style” or “having an adaptable leadership style helped me to create a strong strategic focus in the department, regardless of the environment”.  Do you see the difference?  When you use some of these skills in a CV, leadership skills are what 90% of the other applicants will write and yet still doesn’t help the person reading your CV understand what that actually means you can do.

Step two

On a new piece of paper, think of all the things that interest you and the skills you need to take part in them.  For example, if you play sport in your spare time, what skills help you?  Maybe determination or  competitiveness. Remember to put these into context again; e.g. how does being competitive help you? Another example is being a parent; what skills do you use?  Patience, consistency and a flexible approach to achieving the desired outcome are just a few ideas!  Are you involved in a charity that you feel passionate about?  If you had more hours in the day what would you devote them to? (Sleep is not a answer to this question!).  What is important to you?

Step three

On a third piece of paper, this time consider your personal strengths. What do you know about yourself? Are you caring and loyal, or do you love being the one in your social circle who organises events?  All of these strengths you will use in your work environment, although sometimes unconsciously. By committing them to paper, you are creating an opportunity to see if something for which you have a natural talent (event organising, perhaps) is something you could exploit in a job role.

Step 4

Finally,  take each step and put each skill you have identified into the following groups:

1. Skills I want to use

2. Skills I don’t mind using

3. Skills I have, but would rather not use all of the time

With my clients, I often have them do this between our sessions as it can take a little while to do and feel free to keep adding and re-sorting over time.

What do you gain?

  • An understanding of the skills and abilities you prefer to use which, in turn, should give you an idea of what you would like to be doing as a job, as well as understanding why.
  • Step four will give you something to measure job specifications against.
  • But remember you will have to compromise, no job is ever perfect, ever.

Have a go; you might be surprised at the outcome!

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  1. July 4, 2015 / 9:02 pm

    I found this in 30 Days of Blogging and I think it’s really good! The steps are easy to follow and I would refer a client of my own to this site if they need help figuring out what their dream job should be. Thank you for posting.

    • twinsnowdrop
      July 4, 2015 / 9:21 pm

      Hi Kristian, thank your for taking the time to comment 🙂
      I’m really pleased you thought it was easy to follow, I wanted to make sure it was as clear as possible, although I still may make a video talking through the steps as I think you can convey so much more. I’ve read your blog post on positive affirmations and think it really addresses some of the other reasons people might not be able to recognise their own skills.

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