How to identify your skills and present them to an employer

Self-knowledge, especially understanding your strengths, is key to unlocking fulfilling work for you. The problem is that most of us are blind to our own strengths. We’re quick to discount them, ignore them, belittle them.

Read on to find out how to identify your skills and present them to an employer when making a career change…

Gallup studies show that people who have the opportunity to use their natural strengths every day are “six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs” and “three times as likely to say they have an excellent quality of life.”

And according to Gallup Business Journal:

“Full human potential is realized only when people are in a position to use their greatest talents. Great performance is found when people are in roles that match what they naturally do best.”

If you’re looking to make a complete career change, the chances are you won’t have spent a lot of time building up skills and experience in your new area of interest yet (whether or not you know what that area is).

Your CV might not look like you want it to, and you may feel you’re at a disadvantage compared to others who’ve spent 5, 10, 20 years working in your new field or area of curiosity.

This is inevitably a challenge, but not an impossible one. There are ways to get to grips with – and communicate – the skills you already have in ways that will serve your next step. Knowing your strengths and being able to identify your skills is how you can understand who you are in this evolving world of work, and how you’re able to communicate this with people you’d like to work with/for.

It might help with applying for jobs in your new direction, but it may also help you create additional income streams that will support your income while you explore new options. And, fundamentally, when you can identify your skills, you’ll be able to make sense of your own ambitions much better.

More often than not, we don’t recognise the skills we already have. To ‘know thyself’ – honestly and objectively – is the challenge here.

Exercise: audit your skills

1) Take two pieces of paper

  • On one piece, list out the skills you love to use and that you’d be very happy to use daily.
  • On the second piece, list the skills you don’t enjoy as much, but that are in your bag of tricks. Be sure to list all of your skills from all parts of your life, even if they seem less relevant.

2) Take a look at each skill that you’ve listed and ask yourself ‘what does this say about me?’

In this way, your skills can reveal your traits. If you’re talented at photography, this might tell you that you’re creative and have an eye for detail. If you’re skilled at organising events, this would suggest that you’re proactive and a great multi-tasker.

How might these traits apply to your future direction? Use your listed skills as examples of your innate strengths.

3) Look at your list again and think about what you’re really great at and when your skills have made a difference. For example:

  • Did you save money, make money, get new customers?
  • Did you make something more beautiful, safer, more innovative, more efficient?
  • Did you do it faster or more effectively?
  • Did it win awards, get attention, excite people?
  • Did it produce a near perfect result despite chaotic circumstances?

If you’ve done any of these things, you’ve used your skills to create value. Creating value is how you build a reputation, which is the basis for your personal marketing and framing of your own worth (including determining your own rates).

If you’re reading this and feeling stumped – that’s normal. It can be really difficult to look objectively at ourselves. Try to identify your skills and strengths by asking friends or colleagues you trust to answer a few questions: 

  • What do you think I’m great at?
  • Are there any skills I have that you think I might not be aware of?
  • What are 5 words you would use to describe me?

4) Being good at something doesn’t always mean you like doing it. 

Take a look at the skills you’ve listed, and put a star next to the ones you love using the most. Think about: when do you get into ‘flow’ state? When do you look forward to projects that involve that skill? When are you most proud to talk about the work associated with that skill?

You should now have a pretty compelling – and hard-to-argue-with(!) – list of skills that you can confidently apply to your new area of interest.

Importantly, let your existing skills be a platform for developing more; not a pigeon-hole that keeps you where you are.

If you’re feeling stuck about your career and need support to figure out your next steps, check out:

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