Managing one's career has never been more critical. The workplace is changing faster than ever. Advanced technology has created new companies and industries and has decimated others. Lifelong learning, whether traditional or via non-traditional methods, is pretty much a necessity. Your skills are an important component of your career foundation and knowing exactly what they are will provide career direction, the motivation to take action, and tools to maximize opportunities. You’ll also have greater confidence in communicating your qualifications as you:
- Engage in meaningful business discussions
- Define your brand
- Seek promotions and pay raises
- Create job search promotional materials
- Network with others and ace interviews
- Achieve career mobility
As I read career blogs, I see skills referred to in a variety of ways: hard skills, soft skills, technical skills, transferrable skills, key competencies, etc. It can get confusing, so to keep it simple and help you shape your skills vocabulary and career narrative, let's break skills down into three basic categories:
1. Functional skills are more general and are associated with many different jobs. For this reason, they transfer from job to job and industry to industry. Some examples include:
2. Special knowledge skills are essential to completing a specific job or project. Examples of these are:
- Information security
- Artificial intelligence
- Microsoft Office
- Medical terminology
3. Self-management skills describe characteristics of our work ethic and how we conduct ourselves in the workplace. These could be:
To further maximize your satisfaction and value in the workplace, you'll also want to identify:
- Motivated skills are skills that you most enjoy and, in turn, motivate you. These skills will be significant to guiding you in the direction of a satisfying career.
- Marketable skills are skills employers require for your current job and your job target.
- Transferable skills can help bridge the gap from where you are to where you want to go.
- Skills gaps are skills that you wish to learn or need to develop. If you don't have the skills you need for your target job, you will need to determine a way to fill those gaps.
Most jobs also require skills from at least one, but often two or more of the following categories:
1. People-oriented skills
- Serving others
2. Data/Information-oriented skills
3. Thing-oriented skills
Organize and Categorize
To analyze your skills, create a spreadsheet listing strengths and gaps. List columns indicating types of skills (functional, knowledge-based, or self-management skills; motivated, marketable, and transferrable; people, data, things) and those you possess in your current and target positions. This worksheet can provide a clearer perspective to recognize patterns and recurring themes. Here are some resources to help you through the process.
1. Think through the activities of a typical workday, week, or month and jot down the skills you use.
2. Use your company's job description for your position or review similar job postings for your job target.
3. Review your performance evaluations and commendations from others.
- Job postings from external companies using indeed, ZipRecruiter, Monster, or SimplyHired. Select five or more job postings that represent roles you find ideal. Review the skills required and take note of the sequence of the primary requirements. Typically, the requirements consistently listed at the top of postings represent the most important.
- Review LinkedIn profiles of people in your target job. Check out their listing of skills.
- O*NET OnLine is another option – this is a very comprehensive and useful online tool.
Once you have your skills listed and categorized, the next step is to determine the priority order of your skill development. Think about a realistic time frame to learn the needed skills, whether it's a short or long-term goal or whether it falls into the do-it-now category -- skills that can immediately impact your ability to do your current job. On your template, jot down your best estimate of how long you think it will take to achieve the level of proficiency you want. Then number each skill gap in terms of the priority for development. It is sometimes difficult to find the time to stay current with your skills. It is critical to find time and ways to learn and grow so that you can continue to develop your skills to maintain career longevity.
Develop a Strategy
After prioritizing, determine a strategy to acquire the needed skills. Depending on the specific skills you're focusing on, the strategy for each could be very different. In some cases, it may be a matter of absorbing knowledge. For example: getting up to speed on trends in a particular market by regularly reading industry blogs and news. In other cases, the only way to learn will be to roll up your sleeves and get practical experience. Sometimes you will need skills that you are not currently using; consider figuring out a way to utilize them. For example, if you need to develop your Microsoft Excel skills, see if your company offers any internal training and then actively seek out projects that require these skills. Still, other skills might also require a specific credential to prove your expertise, official certification, a specified degree, or another form of higher education.
Overall, being skill savvy gives you a firm handle on your skill strengths and development needs, putting you in a better position to grow and develop.