We all have skills and strengths, but it’s not always easy to see close and recognise what we are good at. Especially if getting constantly rejected in job search, or having a longer gap in the resume, the focus can easily shift from the skills you have to those you lack. When you are under evaluation or in a competitive situation, it is quite natural to feel uncertain about your strengths (1).
However, recognising your skills, and also your development needs, is absolutely crucial when you are searching for a job and building your career:
- To be successful in job search you need to be able to communicate your skills to the employers.
- To guide your career in a desired direction, you need to recognise the skills gaps and development needs you might have, and find a way to learn the skills needed.
- Recognising your skills will give you new ideas and help you find new ways on how and where to use your skills.
Skills come in many shapes and forms
There are many ways of categorising and labelling skills. You might have heard about hard skills and soft skills (2), employability skills (3), future skills needs (4) and so on. All kinds of skills are important, but these kinds of categories can help you to identify the skills you have.
One commonly used categorisation is to make a distinction between job-specific (5) and transferable skills (6).
- Job-specific skills are the skills required to be able to work in certain profession or certain field. For example, if you work as an architect you need CAD skills. As a teacher, pedagogical skills are crucial for you to be able to do your work.
- Transferable skills are skills that are relevant to any job, no matter the professional field or the title. You can take transferable skills with you from one job to another. For instance, communication skills and analytical skills are relevant to an engineer as well as to a teacher and a marketing professional. Transferable skills are especially important to recognise if you are just starting your career or changing careers. These are typically situations in which you might not necessarily yet have a lot of concrete work experience in the field you are applying to.
You develop new skills throughout life
Skills are not something you learn only in school or while working. You gain new skills also when volunteering, while participating in social activities, in your hobbies and personal projects and just by living your everyday life. For example, while staying at home and taking care of your children, you might learn skills like patience, handling unexpected situations, negotiation skills and flexibility. When adapting to a new country and culture, one typically develops curiosity, productivity and resilience (7,8). Job search, then again, might improve your self-knowledge, networking skills and perseverance, for example.
As you start identifying your skills, it’s good to remember that you don’t need to be an expert on something to be able to say that you have that skill. According to Blooms Taxonomy learning starts with remembering and understanding. After that you will move on to applying, analysing, evaluating and creating. So, you can be on a beginners’ level with some skills (you understand the skill, and you can maybe even apply it a little) and on an expert level with others (you are fluent in applying the skill and you can even analyse and evaluate it). (9) Skills will develop as you get to use them (10).
How to get started with identifying your key strengths, skills and competencies?
Luckily, a lot of tools and methods are available ‒ for free ‒ to help you identify and put your key skills and competences into words.
- Take a quiz. To recognise your personal strengths, try The VIA Survey of Character Strengths. The test is based on theories of positive psychology and it can give ideas on where your personal strengths lie. However, tests shoud always be taken with caution and critical review: they do not necessarily provide the ultimate truth, but should rather be used for ideas and inspiration on your journey.
- Ask a friend. It’s usually a whole lot easier to see skills in others rather than in yourself. Be bold and ask someone who knows you well to give you feedback on your skills. You can find some ideas on how to do this on the SITRA website.
- Review your biggest achievements. When we achieve something, we have used our skills and strengths to get there. Think about your biggest achievements. These can be related to work, family, hobbies, studies, anything you consider to be an achievement for you. What did you do and what skills did you use to make the achievement possible?
- Use tools like SkillMill app or Mid-life skills review. These tools will help you to make your skills visible to yourself.
- Study job ads and company web pages. These can offer you detailed information about the skills demands in companies, and give you information about the skills you need to develop next. However, it’s important to remember that you can apply for the job even if you don’t have all the skills the companies are asking for.
- Compare your skills to the skills requirements of your field. Trade unions and other influencer organisations can provide a lot of information about the skill requirements in your field, see for example Osaamispulssi by Technology Industries of Finland. You can also check the Deck of Skills Cards (PDF) for sector specific needs in Finland. These cards list the growing and key skills needs in each sector in 2035.
- Use curricula in your field of study to compare your skills to those of graduates in your field. European and Finnish higher education institutions tend to describe in the curricula the skills and competences each degree provides.
- Recognise the impact of your international experience. If you have international experience, Hidden Competences research by Demos Helsinki and CIMO, that is now part of Finnish National Agency for Education, is definitely an interesting read on the topic. Living, studying and working in another culture and country might have given you skills such as cultural knowledge, language skills, tolerance, curiosity, resilience and productivity.
- Seek guidance. You can, for example, book a one-on-one guidance discussion with Metropolia’s SIMHE career coaches and get help with identifying your skills and competence as well as your strengths and development needs. Other organisations such as other higher education institutions offering SIMHE services, trade unions in your field and employment services can also offer career guidance services.
Recognising skills is one of the top skills of the future
As the skills demands of work are constantly changing we also need to adapt and focus on developing new kind of skills. The report Osaaminen 2035 (PDF) by Finnish National Agency for Education shows that the skills earlier considered as “soft”, skills like creativity and problem-solving, are actually the hard skills of the future. It is not easy to predict which skills are “the must-have skills” in the future, but for example ability to learn and to develop personal competencies is definitely one of the most important ones. (11) Furthermore, the ability to recognise our skills is part of the general knowledge of the future (12).
According to Towards lifelong learning report (PDF) by SITRA, making skills and competencies visible and utilising one’s strengths is important not only to individuals, but also to communities. It’s about participation, involvement, agency and wellbeing. How we see our skills and what we think we are capable of doing will define our careers and future goals. (13)
As the skills needs for work are constantly evolving, also your own skills set develops and changes over time. You use your skills, learn new ones and forget others. In the end, recognising your skills is also just another skill that can be learned, so let’s just get started!
Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom – Aristotle
Are you interested in transferable skills and future skills needs? Read also our previous blog post by Marika Antikainen on the importance of sustainability in the future.
- Saatko osaamisesi esiin? 7 havaintoa taitojen tunnistamisesta. SITRA. Viewed on 8 November 2021.
- Hard skills vs. soft skills: What’s the difference. The Balance Careers. Viewed on 8 November 2021.
- What Are Employability Skills ‒ Definition & examples of Employability Skills. The Balance Careers. Viewed on 8 November 2021.
- Osaaminen 2035. National Forum for Skills Anticipation. The Finnish National Agency for Education. Raportit ja selvitykset 2019:3. Summary available in English. 2019.
- What Are Job-Specific Skills? The Balance Careers. Viewed on 5 November 2021.
- What Are Transferable Skills? The Balance Careers. Viewed on 5 November 2021.
- Hidden Competences. CIMO/Finnish National Agency of Education. Viewed on 8 November 2021.
- Hidden Competences publication (PDF). CIMO/Finnish National Agency of Education and the think tank Demos Helsinki. Published on 1/2014.
- What is Blooms Taxonomy. Blooms Taxonomy. Viewed on 8 November 2021.
- Saatko osaamisesi esiin? 7 havaintoa taitojen tunnistamisesta. SITRA. Viewed on 8 November 2021.
- Osaaminen 2035. National Forum for Skills Anticipation. Finnish National Agency for Education. Raportit ja selvitykset 2019:3. Summary available in English. 2019.
- Reveal your skills. SITRA. Viewed on 8 November 2021.
- Towards lifelong learning report (PDF). SITRA. Published on 3/2019.
Riia Hoppania works as a Career Coach in Metropolia SIMHE services. Before Metropolia Riia worked as a Career Coach in employment services in Vantaa. Riia has done specialisation studies in career planning and has certificates in solution-focused coaching and life coaching. Riia has a degree in business administration and she did her first career in retail and business where she worked as a manager for years.