Abundant Optimism

Helping people regain and keep an optimistic outlook in challenging circumstances and improve their creativity, mind, and skills.

Identifying Your Skills

By Tamara Martfeld

Improving your skills is always important if you want to move ahead in a career. However, before you can improve them you need to identify them. I have spoken to many people who believe they have no marketable skills. Through conversation with these individuals, I find they simply have skills they did not recognize.

Many people think that low-paying or non-paying jobs require no skills. For example, I used to work for a nation-wide fast food chain. I still have it on my resume as it shows some specific skills and experience not needed as much in more recent jobs. I had a supervisor advise me to remove it from my resume because it was “just a fast food job”. I feel I learned more in that fast food job about how to really run a business than I did obtaining my management degree. In obtaining the degree, theory was taught as well as some of the newer management techniques. In working at the job, theory was applied and I saw how things worked in reality. The list of skills I obtained through the fast food job are customer service (face-to-face at the window and a quality product), how to diffuse anger (dealing with unsatisfied customers), maintaining the accounting records for the restaurant, incorporating new ideas and making them work (implementation of policy changes), prioritizing (customers came first, and then prioritizing the rest of the daily tasks), planning and activating an employee incentive program, obtaining the desired responses from employees, situational thinking, and how to adjust to changes in policy and personnel. I was also lucky enough to have eleven managers in the four years I was there. I saw the effect of the different management styles from the manager who was too close to the employees to the manager who purposely alienated employees. I even saw a great manager turn into a very poor manager. Quite a few skills from “just a fast food job”.

Perhaps you have never had a recognized job. Even if you have always been a stay-at-home person you have skills developed in the home. If you have a budget and balance a checkbook, you have some bookkeeping skills. If you clean your home you likely have the skills of a maid. If there is more than just you in the household you likely have negotiation skills and organization skills. If you have children you likely have patience, conflict resolution skills, tutoring expertise, and driving skills. If you are good at home repairs you have some skills for general contracting and likely problem solving and creative thinking (how do you get something to work until you can afford to do it right?). Even if all you do is sit around and read all day, that is a skill – some people read and evaluate books for a living. Some of these skills require a little more education or a license to use professionally, but you have them and can build on them.

Volunteer work is also a place of hidden skills. Volunteers can be doing any of the work above with their related skills and may have additional skills as well due to the type of volunteer work done. My first supervisor for office work told me that the reason I got the job over another candidate was my volunteer work. Through Girl Scouts I had volunteered with communities of people with various disabilities. This was seen as having more people skills and more important than the office skills. The supervisor decided he could further develop the office skills, but it was more difficult to train someone in people skills. The job involved speaking with people in sensitive situations.

Hopefully, you can see that you may have skills you have not identified. Almost every thing done requires some sort of skill. If you love a particular activity and wish you could do it more, look for the skill set required for that activity. You may be able to use those skills in your current job or develop those skills for a future job.

Have a wonderful May Day (May 1st for those who do not know this “holiday”) and a fabulous month!