Skills develop from employment, education, hobbies, community activities, and life experiences.
Identifying and developing your skills is an important element in choosing a career. No matter how much a career as a professional athlete may match your interests, values, and personality, if you are lacking exceptional hand-eye coordination (for example) you probably would not succeed in this highly competitive field.
Skills are also the foundation of an effective work search. Employers don't just want to know what you've studied and what jobs you've had. They want to know what you can do for them -- they want to hear about your skills.
Consideration of your skills can focus on existing skills or skills that you have the potential to learn. If you have had limited work experience, then there are many talents you simply have not had the opportunity to demonstrate yet. During your years at Trent, you will have ample opportunity, both in and out of the classroom, to experiment and grow in the level and diversity of your skills.
Activities for Identifying Your Skills
At this stage in your career path it will be important to both identify the skills you have and make a plan for developing new skills. A skill refers to something you do well or have an aptitude for. They may also be referred to as abilities or competencies.
Most occupations require a combination of two kinds of skill sets in order to perform the work well. The first group of skills is generic to most jobs. These are referred to as employability skills. The second type of skills are called technical or job specific skills. These vary according to the nature of the work being done.
Employability skills, as defined by the Conference Board of Canada, encompass three types of skills:
Fundamental skills include communication, managing information, using numbers, thinking and solving problems.
Personal management skills are used day-to-day to get along with others -- the skills that make you unique. Don't underestimate these skills, especially those that show motivation and a good work attitude; employers look for these to see how a candidate will fit into their organization. These include reliability, demonstrating positive attitudes and behaviours, handling responsibility, adaptability, learning continuously, and working safely.
Teamwork skills include working with others and showing leadership in projects and teams.
Technical or job specific skills are also required in many occupations. Many of these can be learned on the job, while in other cases, additional formal education and training are required.
Identifying Your Employability Skills
While most jobs require many employability skills, every occupation differs in terms of how often a specific skill would be needed, as well as the level at which one would need to function in that skill area. For example, almost every job involves some basic numeric skills, but a cashier would use that skill more often than a firefighter, and an accountant would need more highly developed math skills than a cashier.
By identifying the employability skills that you possess don't think just in terms of having or not having a skill, but also in terms of which skills are your strongest ones, and which ones you most enjoy using.
Identifying Your Technical Skills
When you are attempting to identify your ability to perform more specialized skills there are a few things to consider.
First of all, look for instances in your past experience when you have mastered a new skill. It may have been operating a lawn mower, using a cash register, fixing your own computer, or negotiating with your parents for something you really wanted. Ask yourself - how might these skills be applied either indirectly or directly to a work situation? For the indirect application, you need to identify skills that you used in one activity/job that can be applied to a variety of other activities/jobs.
Second, consider the underlying, more basic ability required. In this way you can get a more realistic sense of your potential to become competent in that skill. For example, if your goal is to be a surgeon or a dentist, you probably haven't had much opportunity to wield a scalpel or dentist's drill. However, you can probably assess your overall manual dexterity fairly accurately.
Finally, don't overlook the specific technical skills you are developing at university. Depending on your courses these might include such things as research and analysis skills; the ability to create, critique and edit written material; knowing how to operate lab equipment and to perform specific experiments; and computer skills.
Skills Development Action Plan
Now that you are aware of your skills and have identified situations in which you have demonstrated these skills, it’s time to make a plan to develop more skills.