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How to Identify (and Leverage) Your Skills in a Job Search or Career Change

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Nov 16, 2022

How to Identify (and Leverage) Your Skills in a Job Search or Career Change

Dave Fano

Identifying your skills may seem obvious, but too often we see people not give themselves credit for the skills they have. Pinpoint the skills you have, and uncover those you might not know you have.

In this class, we're going to focus on helping you identify your skills. That may seem obvious, but a lot of times what we see with folks that are making a career transition or looking for growth is that they don't give themselves credit for the skills they have. 

We're going to go ahead and dive into what that process is like and how you can identify the skills you have, and those that you might not know. We will discuss Teal’s approach to identifying skills and how we think about it using the following agenda:

Approach

In this section, we're going to talk about our approach to thinking about skills. First let's take a pause and think about the career exploration process and where this sits. First, we want to understand our values and our style, those things that are inherent to us, then our skills and our interests and the intersection of those two things. Then that allows us to explore career options and fit. 

In this section, we're going to focus on skills. That sits in the broader framework of fulfilling work right  at the intersection of style, value, and skills. When they intersect with style, those are strengths and talents, those things that we're pretty good at naturally. Then the skills and interests, the intersection of those is the energizers, the things that charge us up and get us excited. 

That is how we think about skills. Again, those things that are strengths that come natural and those energizers and our framework for thinking about skills are these natural strengths. That, again, talents are things that come natural to us. These acquired skills, things that we've learned through experience or through deliberate practice.

Skills matter because they are the currency of careers. Ultimately, companies hire us for what we know, not what we want to know. That doesn't mean that you can't pursue career opportunities, where you can expand your knowledge and grow and learn on the job. In the moment of getting hired, we have to make it clear to them that we have these abilities because a company has a gap in abilities, and that's why they're hiring us to fill it.

Let's talk a little bit about how we understand that. Think of a job description. If you look at a job description, they are riddled with skills. It is a company saying we need growth marketing, analytical capabilities. Just look for the word skill capabilities and knowledge. You will see that they are all over the place. That is a company telling us you need to have these abilities. 

That's why it's so important to go through the process of understanding your skills and exhaustively documenting all the skills you have. Most importantly, the ones that you take for granted, things that just come naturally to you, that you just think, you know how to do, or you don't even give yourself credit for knowing how to do them.

You want to document them all because all these skills are what's going to enable us to get those opportunities that excite us. As you plan your job search or your career transition, it's important that you identify what you know, and you have to dig deep and do that. Self-advocacy here. A lot of us will approach these things with humility and say, yeah, we're not that good at that.

You want to be your biggest champion. If you've watched our job searching classes, you'll hear us say that you are a salesperson and your product is you. You have to get comfortable understanding all those features of this product and your skills and your abilities.

That's why we really want to focus on skills and make sure we document them all. 

Natural Strengths

Sometimes, natural strengths are also referred to as talents. We intentionally avoid that word because it’s wishy washy. 

What is a strength? It’s an ability that comes naturally to you. Some of us have a natural ability to draw, sing, and have an ear for music. We might be more athletic and we might be good with numbers, and they just come naturally. That might be through nature or nurture, but we've developed to a point that we're in our career.

These things are easier than others, and these are strengths. We want to understand those, and we want to lean into them as much as we can. Some of us have strengths that we have no interest in doing, but it's very important to understand these things that come naturally to us.

Our work style is really a great compass for finding those because our work style will oftentimes tell us some of these things that come easy to us, and it's a good way to find them. You may disagree with some of them because we're all different, but directionally some of these things that come natural are oftentimes the ones that we take for granted.

This is where the work style assessment and the 360 in the work style could be really helpful because you'll be able to more explicitly understand these skills that come easy. Especially in the 360, you'll be able to see it from others. Let's talk at a high level what you might be looking for based on your primary style.

Remember that the ones and twos tend to get more energized from starting things and starting activities. The threes and fours tend to be more energized from finishing things and bringing things to conclusion. When we go to the other axes, the two and the three tend to have that higher people orientation and pursuit of connection. The ones and fours tend to have more of that result orientation and pursuit of autonomy. 

Again, all these things are “ands”. It's very important for us that we continue to state that because we're all all things, but some of them just might more naturally energize us and some of them may more naturally drain us.

Here are the primary styles and their strengths:

Again, we're all of these. Maybe, through our course of life, we've developed some of these abilities, but the main thing we want here is for you to leverage your work style, to help surface things that you might take for granted.

The tricky thing with natural strengths is because they're natural, we take them for granted and we don't value them as highly as others might. Lean on your work style to help discover some of these natural strengths that you might have. 

Also really valuable here is the 360, but this is where we may have these blind spots that we don't understand that we're good at. When you do the 360, you will see how others perceive you and how others see these to be your strengths and abilities. 

Really focus on those words on the right, the dimensions of the 360, and look at where people put you and see if there is clustering there that you didn't give yourself a high mark on. That will tell you that you do have these abilities and others do recognize them as strengths for you. 

Now you want to make sure you document those. When you ultimately go and pursue these career opportunities, you bring those to the surface if they're relevant to a job.

Acquired Skills

In this section, we're going to talk about acquired skills. Now these are things that don't come naturally to us and that we've picked up along the way. 

The way that we define an acquired skill is an ability we've gained through learning, and that might be through deliberate practice, through experiences or through formal education, but these are things that we've worked to learn.

The way we start to find those is to look at times you've documented your abilities. Look at your achievements on your resume. Look at the things that you’ve written that you’ve said you’ve done. Now you can start to see those skills, and they might be very granular, or they might be more broad and strategic, but you want to start to document these skills because we want to uncover and catalog every skill we have. 

That is the key thing here. That might feel exhaustive, but these are all these features to the product of you. You want to understand them because when you need them to sell yourself, it's going to be really valuable to have them documented. Then you're also going to be able to go through the process of understanding which are the ones you actually enjoy doing and which ones you don't.

It's important to recognize that a lot of us have these skills that we don't want to use. That's really important towards finding work that's fulfilling and energizing for us. 

So looking at the, what we would call the resolution of a skill, like the micro and the macro because you want to really document both.

A low resolution, meaning broad, not fine. Sales, design, recruitment, right? Those are low resolution. High resolution, finer, more detail, gets down to the tactic, the software, the tool that you've learned, the technique that you've learned. Then we have that middle that kind of sits in between.

When you're looking at career opportunities, some companies are going to talk about them in a high resolution, and some of them are going to talk about them in a low resolution. There's a fairly high correlation to level of role. The more senior, the lower the resolution. The more junior, probably the higher resolution because they're going to want very specific tools and tactics. As you get more senior, you're going to be able to talk about strategies more broadly. 

You're going to want to document them in all forms, and do it in a way that's comfortable to you. You may want to start in the low resolution as these categories, or it may be easier to start in high resolution.

Think about the tools that you know how to use and techniques that you have. Then you can cluster them as you go through that process. Hopefully that gives you a framework for how to think about your skills.

Uncover Your Skills

In this section, we're going to cover how to uncover your skills.

We want to take a little bit of time to help you think about skills you might have and to help you realize that you have these abilities that you maybe weren't giving yourself credit for. 

We all have more skills than we realize. We know how to do a lot of things, and going through that process of introspection and giving ourselves credit for these abilities that we have is harder.

It is sometimes tricky and it's that self-advocacy, and that self-promotion and bragging, which is uncomfortable, but this is a time to do it, especially to yourself about yourself. We want to think about times that we've done these things because again, you just may not be giving yourself that credit.

We put on these career blinders because we've picked a career path. What you want to do is think about these times in your past that you’ve done things and that you were fulfilled and energized by it. 

  • Have you planned a big event/trip?
  • Were you part of a team or a club?
  • Did you excel in a school subject?
  • What have you been the “go-to” for?

These are ways to help you reflect on your past and look at moments in your life where people were coming to you for things or you stepped up and did it. You had these skills and abilities.

Now we're not yet focused on whether you enjoyed it or not. What we want to do is document all those abilities that we have. 

So let's look at an example of times that we might have done things in our personal life that are actually abilities. As an example, say you've planned a wedding that is a complex series of events.

Let's think about the skills that you gained in doing that. You've got planning and organizational skills thinking about where people are sitting next to each other, and you know how the whole thing comes together. That's planning and organizing. 

Vendor vetting, that comes with a budget and thinking about which vendors you're going to hire. Then you're negotiating and you're working down the pricing and putting it all together. Then you're designing. Some of these you may have outsourced, you may have leaned on your network to handle, and for some of them, you might have done yourself. The ones that you did yourself should feel like you've built that ability.

Now, those are skills you should claim, and you should feel proud of the fact that you have those skills. You may not want to say I acquired them in the context of wedding planning, but the fact that you have those skills and you have proof that you've done it should give you the confidence to say you have these skills.

I've made this reference a few times when it comes to our skills. We may have these blind spots. Again, if you have an ability with things, it's all relative and we tend to be our worst critic. Sometimes you might say, yeah, I know how to do that, but I'm not that good at it. The truth is if you compare it to a true novice, maybe you're incredible at it.

Time again, we've seen that self-evaluation is really tough because we don't have a context to benchmark to, so be generous with your skills. You can also ask your peers for feedback to uncover any blind spots. 

  • What are my 3-5 greatest skills?
  • What comes naturally to me?
  • What do I know a lot about?
  • What kind of work do you think would align well with my skills?

You can ask people you've worked with, past managers, direct reports, colleagues, and these are going to give you insights. A lot you might realize, but others, you might discover things that you didn't know you had. Maybe you don't give yourself credit for being a great manager, but your team thinks you are.

This is a great way to unpack and discover these abilities that you have.

Energizers

In this section, we're going to talk about energizers, which sit at the intersection of a skill and an interest. 

You're most likely going to feel satisfied with your work when it's engaging you in things that you are both skilled at and enjoy. That means it's an ability and an interest, and we're sitting at the intersection of those two. 

What we want you to do is think about where these skills sit in this matrix. You have these two extremes. Is it a skill? Is it not? In other words, are you good at it or are you not? Then I want to do less of it, or I want to do more of it when you start to plot skills on this matrix for yourself. It's going to really tell you a lot about the kinds of things that you want to be doing.

We then codify these four quadrants in a certain way. 

The things that are a skill, but that we don't want to do more of, we call that an asset. That is something there that you have tucked away that has value to use it if you need. That's not to say to always do this, because then that's going to drain you, but it is an asset and it has a value and we shouldn't devalue it. 

Then if we go down one, there's the things that we want to do less of, and that we're not good at. The more you can have clarity on these, the better, because these are going to be the ones that set you up for failure.

You're doing it, but you don't enjoy it, and you're not good at it. You want to speak up and be vocal about not doing these things. Be mindful about where you're going and that those environments, roles, and jobs are not going to present these situations where you have to do things that you don't like doing and that you’re not good at.

Next is potentials. These are things that you want to do more but are not a skill yet. You have an interest. You are curious about pursuing it, but you don't really have that ability yet. We call those potentials because as you go, fill in that ability and move them up. 

Now these are energizers because you have that mastery. We like to be mindful about what these potentials can be, because sometimes it's tricky to get hired for potentials, but as soon as we have that mastery, then they can go over to an energizer. 

Then energizers.  These are really the ones we want to focus on.

It's those things that we like doing, we want to do more of, and that we're already good at and we can get better at. It's doubling down on our strengths that we enjoy and that are interesting to us, and those tend to energize us. That really creates this virtuous cycle of doing the things we're good at.

Then by getting to do more of it, we get better at it. That becomes a compounding career energizer. These are really important, and you can move things into that category of assets. Sometimes if you recontextualize it might actually be an energizer. Those potentials, as you build up those skills and you get opportunities to practice and build them well, then they become energizers. We really want to move things up into that top right quadrant. 

We've built a tool, the Skills Workbook, to help you start to understand this and to document all those skills with a bunch of pre populated skills. There are hundreds of thousands of skills in the various skills databases out there, so obviously you can add your own. Watch the video to see a thorough walkthrough of how to fill this out. 

Another tool that we highly recommend for looking at career possibilities and exploring your skills is on LinkedIn. It's called Career Explorer and it's focused on occupations and the different kinds of skills. It can help you uncover career paths by matching your skills to thousands of job titles. 

Really the point of this is being exhaustive about documenting all these skills you have because they're going to help you explore potentials and see which career opportunities your skills map to.

Wrap Up

That does it for the identifying my skills class. 

So many times we are hard on ourselves, but when you go through this process, you really get to boost yourself up and see all these abilities you have that maybe you didn't realize you had.   We are all just this wealth of experiences and things that we've done, and they can all be recontextualized in these very cool ways. 

We really want to think about these times in our life and the activities that we've done that surface these skills to us, because those are what's going to make us marketable. The ones that we want to do are going to be the ones that charge us up, get us energized about our work, and move us closer to that fulfilling career that we're all after.

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Dave Fano

Founder and CEO of Teal, Dave is a serial entrepreneur with 20+ years of experience building products & services to help people leverage technology and achieve more with less.

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