During the span of your career, you will collect a diverse set of experiences that will help you develop different types of skills. Since your career advancements depend on the type of skills you have, it is important that you are aware of the different types of skills that promote your employability:
Business skills include communication, presentation, public speaking, and office skills. Your business skills are vital to your career development since you use them in any occupation.
Specialized skills are those specific to your field of expertise. For example, a chemical engineer and a software engineer will have specialized skills specific to their fields of expertise. All engineers have advanced knowledge of mathematics and physics, but the specialized skills of a chemical engineer might be knowledge of energy, thermodynamics, and chemical kinetics. However, the specialized skills of a software engineer might be programming languages such as C++ and object-oriented design.
Cognitive skills such as problem-solving and decision-making skills. Cognitive skills are important since they help you make efficient decisions and develop effective solutions to problems, which add to your promotability in the workplace.
Technical skills which may vary depending on your field of occupation. For example, if you work as an administrative assistant, you probably have extensive knowledge of word processing and spreadsheet software, depending on what your job duties are.
What can I do to identify my skills?
Skills are fundamental for achieving your goals and influence some factors, such as job satisfaction and productivity, which can give you feelings of fulfillment and achievement in your personal and work life. It is important for your career that you identify your existing skills and skills you need to cultivate.
The following are two ways you can use to identify your skills:
Self-assessments: One way to evaluate your skills is through self-assessments, which use skill inventories and other types of information-gathering techniques, such as informational interviews, keeping a work diary, and role-playing. Skill inventories usually have questions that help assess your values, interests, skills, and personality traits.
Attending workshops for career planning or career fairs helps you expand the self-assessment of your skills, interests, and values, as well as puts you in touch with people already involved in a particular field. Self-assessments are a great tool for learning about yourself and involve anything that instigates self-discovery, such as reading self-help books or attending career workshops.
Although self-assessments can be effective, it is important to be objective about your strengths and weaknesses. To maintain your objectivity, give an example for each strength or weakness. If you think one of your strengths is that you function well under pressure, give an example of a situation in which you performed well under pressure. Otherwise, you risk developing unrealistic expectations for your career development.
Professional assessments: The main difference between professional assessments and self-assessments is that professional assessments are targeted to meet your specific needs and are conducted by a counselor with experience in helping people make career choices. In professional assessments, career counselors are in charge of monitoring your progress and advising modifications to your goals and objectives as they see fit.
Professional assessments are conducted by educational or career counselors and follow the same principles as self-assessments. Career counselors will administer a battery of tests to assess your interests, skills, and values, and then they will analyze the results and share their interpretations with you. Once your interests, skills, and values are determined, your career counselor will develop goals that will facilitate making career decisions.
Why is it important to develop new skills?
Developing new skills adds strength to your promotability and marketability and provides opportunities to explore new career paths. Developing new skills involves updating your current skills to maintain a competitive edge, learning skills that complement those you already have, or learning entirely new skills to widen your repertoire.
If you are learning new skills to complement those you already have, then you should first determine what complementary skills you are lacking and how they will impact your current skills. When developing new skills, you should analyze the competition in your field and establish benchmarking goals. For example, suppose you are a computer programmer and some of the programming languages you know are becoming obsolete. You might want to consider updating your programming languages by asking colleagues about the languages they are currently using or by researching what is old and what is new.
When learning new skills to widen your repertoire, think about your future goals and define how new skills will benefit you. For example, suppose you are an administrative assistant for a customer service department at a major corporation. Your job is to provide clerical support to the customer service director and manage product information received from other departments.
You have considered getting a college degree, but you are not sure what you want to study. You know that next year there will be an opening for a marketing assistant position that catches your interest. Based on this news, you decide to take a couple of marketing classes this year, so you can learn more about marketing and expand your opportunities within the company.
What action can I take to develop new skills?
You can take several actions to develop new skills:
Expand your education: One action you can take to develop new skills is to expand your education. Since you can learn new skills either by taking a class or learning on your own, it is important to determine why you are expanding your education. Do you need a degree to validate your experience? Certain occupations require a college degree, license, or special certification, such as engineers or rehabilitation counselors, so it is important to keep in mind why you need to develop new skills.
Most organizations have implicit or explicit policies for management and professional occupations that may require a college degree. Knowing whether you need a degree or certification to move up in your career will help you plan accordingly.
For example, suppose that your ultimate career goal is to be part of your organization’s senior management. You have many years of experience, but you do not have an MBA degree. Since everyone in senior management has an MBA degree, you should consider whether your experience would make up for lacking an MBA, then decide what your next step should be.
Foster new experiences: Another action you can take to develop new skills is to foster new experiences. You can foster new experiences by participating in projects within your organization, or you can volunteer at nonprofit organizations or social events to gain experience in areas outside your line of work.
Volunteering is always in high demand, and it gives you a sense of achievement and shows your altruism. By volunteering to lead projects at work, you show initiative and willingness to learn. In addition, it gives a positive impression to your supervisor and his or her superiors.
Seek guidance from a mentor: In addition to expanding your education and fostering new experiences, you can seek guidance from a mentor. The person you choose for a mentor should be someone with extensive experience and expertise related to your career choice. To gain the most from a mentoring relationship, you should try to establish open and honest communication and build rapport with your mentor.
You can build rapport by asking pertinent questions such as, How did you decide to be in this field? and by expressing interest in his or her professional life. When your mentoring relationship lacks rapport, you are not only cheating yourself from learning from your mentor’s experience or expertise, but also wasting time. Keep in mind that lacking rapport with your mentor is nobody’s fault but rather a personality clash that will inhibit you from being honest and open with your mentor.