Part Two: Identifying Skills

This is the second part of a series of mini guides which aims to help you find a career you love. They will include tips from me but also practical advice from some of the hundreds of individuals that I have coached over the last 10 years, the sort of things they may have shared with friends or family going through a career move.

If you find yourself looking for another role it may be a really good time to take stock and work out what you love to do as well as what you are good at. The more you understand yourself, the more you will be able to identify the right career path for you. Also, you will be better placed to market yourself.

To help my clients understand what they are good at and what they enjoy I use an exercise called ‘a good day’. I ask them to think of a particular time at work that stood out for them as being a satisfying and enjoyable moment. They may say something like ‘it felt good to finish off a project’ but I try to encourage them to think a little bit deeper. What was it that made it such a good day? Was it the fact that they just loved completing things, was it the external praise that they got, was it the fact that they’d worked together in a team and really enjoyed the camaraderie? Try to think about several instances of ‘good days’ and explore the common themes. This will help you identify the sort of work you enjoy as well as your areas of expertise.

As with all these mini guides the following are quotes from people who have searched for a new role and here’s what they have advised about skills:

“Reflecting on my past times when I had been extremely happy and also extremely unhappy enabled me to consider the life I wanted to create next. Having a focus on the end goal was really important for me when deciding what to do next”

“I had done no marketing for myself for years (being so entrenched in one company and juggling family demands) - so talking about myself (normally not a problem!) was taxing. I had lost touch with my skills, what I brought to the table and what I really wanted. So, the first really valuable thing was doing a skill and experience audit - putting down on paper what I had done over the last decade and marrying that up to skills. It was a real confidence build. Set me up nicely.” 

“Focus on the skills that you have not just the jobs you have done.”

“Don’t underestimate how transferable your skills are – you just need to package them in a way that ensures they meet the immediate needs of your prospective employer & demonstrate that you can hit the ground running.”

“Take time to look at the skills you’ve got, not the job titles you’ve had. It might sound very simple but everyone I have said this to has had a light bulb moment and, instead of panicking that they can’t see their current title on job searches have found they immediately have a much larger pool to fish in.”

In terms of your skills, there will be things that you understand that you’re good at but also things that you take for granted. If I asked you how you go about your job you might say it’s obvious because you’re highly skilled at it and it comes naturally to you. However, others might well find it hard. I like to think of taking skills for granted in terms of driving a car. When I was teaching my children to learn to drive, I realised how many different steps were involved which were quite daunting to a 17-year-old but automatic for me. You might find that you’re very good at some complex things because of the natural skills that you possess but you may be taking the skill for granted.

One of the effective ways of identifying your skills is to ask people you have worked with what skills they think you have. It may sound a bit daunting, but actually most people will be more than happy to help and it’s a great confidence booster to hear from other people how good you are at your job. But don't just take it from me this is what others have said:

“Don’t be afraid to seek feedback about what you’re really good at.”

“Talk to your colleagues/friends and ask them what they think your top 3 strengths are and what 3 things they think you need to develop. It may help you understand what people think of you.” 

“Friends, family and trusted work colleagues are invaluable in helping you understand what you are good at and what you most enjoy – they can challenge your self-perceptions and reset your expectations.  But you have to be open to listen!”

"Listen to ex-colleagues, friends and family.  Deep down you know what type of person you are, but in my experience a lot of people are blind to their own strengths and abilities.  Self-awareness has a habit of failing us when it comes to personal abilities and attributes.”

They key is to fully understand your skills and experience in order to get a clear message on your CV, LinkedIn and in conversations with your networks. The clearer you are, the more the market will understand and the more likely you will find what you are looking for.

This series of mini guides will give you some practical tips and hints from people that have been through it and found what they are looking for. The next one is about your career values.

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