Skill (noun) 1.special ability or expertise. 2. something requiring special training or expertise. (Collins English Dictionary).
‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ (Socrates)
To succeed in any field of discipline, it is imperative that one identifies and develops relevant skills to excel in that specific area. More often than not, employers will choose a more skilful applicant over a more experienced one. Like my friend who is a Human Resources consultant said ‘there is a difference between experience and expertise, I am constantly seeking the latter.’ Developing one’s skills makes all the difference but that will be the subject of another post.
How you present your skills profile in your CV can be the difference between progressing to the next phase of a job application or not; regardless of your education or work experience. Identifying and communicating your skills will always set your apart from other applicants. However, you cannot communicate what you haven’t identified! Furthermore, the ability to identify all the skills you have can make you more aware of your different career options. It can also alert you to any skills or knowledge gaps that can be addressed with further training.
Skills by definition involves a special ability or expertise. Do not let the terms ‘special ability’ and ‘expertise’ throw you. We all have skills, whether they be generic transferable skills such as communication and teamwork or more specialist skills such as electron microscopy and credit control! Job skills are a broad term that are used to cover a wide range of abilities and skills that you have built up during your education and career.
So now we all agree that preparing your skills profile by making a complete and relevant list of your skills is a worthwhile task, how do we go about it? We move from ‘knowing’ our experience to ‘identifying’ our expertise via reflection.
First, look at your employment history and prepare a list of every single job you have done, it doesn’t matter if it is voluntary or paid employment, skills can be developed in either. If you have just graduated from school or University and are thinking about your first job, scrutinise what you have done over the last few years to achieve your degree award. Skills are not only developed in a work environment. Do you have any hobbies? Include them on the list too.
Next, for every job, hobby or training, identify and write down the tasks associated with each activity. Finally, note what you have learnt from carrying out these tasks. What abilities do you now have that you didn’t before? You’ll be surprised at how many skills you have developed over the years.
Undertaking tasks lead to experience, developing experience = developing skills in that area. For example, a final year student undertaking a research project in Microbiology is developing skills; in the subject area (techniques being used); IT (data analysis, preparing reports); organisational and project management (managing submission deadlines); communication (writing dissertation and defence/viva) etc.
Now that your skills profile is ready, the job application process becomes somewhat easier as you can compare the person specification in any job advertisement with your personal and unique skills list and choose the relevant items. You can also see what skills are important to employers in your area of expertise and fill in the gaps where necessary.
Identifying your skills is an ongoing process in the journey of personal development. As one advances along a career path, our capacity to improve our skill set increases. However, unless we are aware of and documenting our advancement, it can be difficult to communicate this progress to prospective employers.
Why take all the time to find and communicate your skills? The end result is something that sets you apart and makes you stand out. Remember that you don’t even have to be the most qualified and or experienced candidate, but by showcasing your skills you can grab the attention of the employer and demonstrate instantly how you will fit into the job role perfectly and add value to the company. So get started.
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