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Recognizing your skills is an essential part of every job search. Being able to effectively communicate these your skill set to a potential employer is equally important. Yet, many people have difficulty with both. Countless job-seekers, particularly women, often underestimate their skills. This leads to undervaluing themselves in the job market. And failing to sell themselves in a job interview.
So what is a skill? A skill is anything you can do. Most career resources divide your skill set into three different types. Different sources use different names, here we will call them: Innate, Transferable and Job-Specific.
Innate skills are the characteristics we often think of as personality traits. They are the skills we use to in every area of our life. They are the words our friends would probably use to describe us. Some examples are: punctual, conscientious, organized, honest, friendly, etc. While anyone can learn to be punctual, for those who hit the snooze alarm three times before getting up it’s not so easy.
While many job-seekers discount these skills, employers consider them very important. Most people do not loose their jobs because of their inability to do the work, according to a survey of personnel directors conducted by Robert Half & Associates, cited in The Very Quick Job Search by J. Michael Farr. “The most frequently noted problems were; lying and dishonesty (14%), absenteeism and tardiness (12%), arrogance and overconfidence (12%), and lack of dedication (6%).”
Transferable skills are those that transfer readily from one job to another. Many of these skills, like effective communication, come more naturally to some, than to others. But, generally, these skills are learned and developed over time. Some examples are: written and verbal communication, managing, negotiating, solving problems, and meeting deadlines.
Recognizing, and promoting, these skills can enhance your marketability for several reasons. While each company conducts business its own way, being able to motivate employees translates to any setting. These skills can be particularly valuable to those transitioning to a new career. Good communication skills, for example, are valued in every industry.
Job-specific skills generally are those considered specific to an occupation. When asked to name their skills, these often are the abilities people think of first. They include things like computer programming, flying a plane, using industry-specific software applications, operating a video camera and typing a certain number of words per minute.
While these skills are valuable, many do not transfer to other positions or industries. An administrative assistant interviewing for a management position, for example, will want to focus on her Innate and Transferable skills. The interviewer will be more interested in hearing about her communication and problem-solving skills than her typing abilities.
It’s essential to take stock of your skills before beginning a job search. You will need this information to prepare your marketing materials, a cover letter and resume. This knowledge also will be important during the interview process. Before your interview, choose three to five of your strongest skills. Be prepared with examples of when and how you used each skill on-the-job. For example, don’t just say you are a team player, talk about working with others to complete a project.
For most of us, preparing for a job-search is intimidating. If we’re contemplating a similar position in the same industry, it’s bound to be difficult. It we’re changing careers, it’s worse. However, taking the time to accurately assess your skills is the first step to success.