What are you good at?
The types of activities in which you excel and those in which you do not.
Because your skills represent a critical part of the engine driving you toward your goals.
Skills – What Are You Great At?
Unlike strengths, which are slightly difficult to uncover, skills are much more straightforward. Everyone has done a skill assessment at some point in time, whether formal or not. The most obvious one is your resume. Every time you put yourself on the market, you dust off the old resume and update it. What are the changes you usually make? Of course, it depends on your goal.
The resume aims to sell you to your future prospective employer, so you will hone in on those things you are great at and emphasize how they will benefit the employer and their business. You list your skills, but you do so in the limited context of the job you are applying for.
It’s not unusual for modern Renaissance men or women—a person with many talents or areas of knowledge—to have multiple resumes for multiple job categories. Maybe you are an accountant but also could do banking work. Perhaps you are a chef, but you also enjoy writing for magazines. No matter what, your resume is not the right tool for combining all your skills. First, your resume only includes your professional skills, and even for those, as we said, you narrow them down to a specific target.
The Difference Between Skills and Strengths
Let’s nip this one in the bud because it’s a big one: how do we define the difference between strength and skill in more concrete terms? First, let’s recognize that you might be great at something (skill), but you might also dread it (not a strength). On the other hand, you might utterly love doing something (strength), but you may suck at performing it (not a skill). With that separation in your mind, let’s look at a few practical examples:
Dependability as a strength: the feeling of joy and fulfillment you get when you sense that people can depend on you. You get energized by being a support for others and helping them through their struggles.
Dependability as a skill: you know how to ask the right questions, listen, act, and behave in situations when people need your help.
Running as a strength: When you run, you can shut the rest of the world off and be in your element. It doesn’t matter how long you run; during those moments, your brain recharges as your body fatigues in a good way.
Running as a skill: You can run a marathon any day of the week with almost no physical side-effects, except for a day or two of muscle soreness.
I hope these two examples make this difference clearer as you proceed into the Skill Discovery phase.
What Kind of Skills Are There?
So, what kind of skills can you have? Let’s break them down the way that most career sites do, which I believe applies quite well:
- Hard Skills – these are the professional skills and knowledge you have gained over time through learning, experience, and training. Hard skills are particular to a profession, although some of them might apply to more than one.
- Soft Skills – these are personal traits and behaviors that shape how you interact with others and yourself.
In other words, hard skills are skills you have acquired for a specific profession or set of occupations, while soft skills are skills you use in all aspects of your life, including your personal life.
I don’t like the word “soft” with regard to skills, but I’ll leave the term here because of its widespread use. I think soft skills should be called essential life skills.
1 Hard Skills
As you can imagine, it’s quite challenging to create a test to uncover hard skills or even just to compile a comprehensive list of all the hard skills that exist. That’s because the list would be just too vast; every profession you can think of has a specific set of skills that you can possess or develop, and each skill has multiple sub-skills and other related skills.
That’s why you are the best person to number your hard skills. However, just as with the other items above, this reflective exercise requires you to be dead honest. You need to have the proper self-awareness to assess a level for each skill between 1 and 10. In the end, you want to focus on skills that are 6 and above, but even lower-level skills are important, as we’ll see soon.
2 Soft Skills
Soft skills don’t come with your college textbooks, nor will you learn them, for the most part, from your professors. They are also known as life skills. They are those kinds of skills that help you navigate life effectively. Some refer to them as people skills because they have a lot to do with a person’s emotional intelligence.
Most people hear of soft skills while job searching or crafting a resume, but, make no mistake, they are not just for that. Almost every soft skill that helps you in your personal life will help you in your job, and vice versa.
Because these are personal skills, they represent a set of natural abilities that you’ve developed over time, consciously or subconsciously. Because you developed or learned them, they are also trainable by definition. That means that you can improve them through continuous practice.
Here things get fuzzy because most people believe that the accumulation of skills stops at some point, and after that point, all you do is use them. That is not true. During this journey, you will identify your skills, decide on new skills you might have, and devise a plan to work on all of them for the rest of your life.
You will never reach perfection with your soft skills because perfection doesn’t exist. These kinds of life skills keep unfolding, and new dimensions reveal themselves to you as you advance through life, as you grow and as those around you grow as well.
Here’s a classification of these skills:
- Communication — Communication skills are probably the most important of all social skills. Most problems we encounter stem from a lack of communication, so honing these skills first is critical.
- Problem-Solving — Creativity and critical thinking are part of problem-solving. And, let’s be honest: life is full of problems. Your ability to think on your feet and develop creative solutions is a vital part of your life.
- Leadership — I know that leadership sounds like something to use in business or the army, but it doesn’t have to be. There’s personal leadership, family leadership, and community leadership. More than that, leadership is a state of mind. Learning this skill will give you the critical edge you need for your personal development and growth.
- Work Ethic — These skills also span every aspect of your life. They are easier to define as “work” because it’s more straightforward to understand them that way, but fear not—they apply just as much to your personal life. They are closely related to your moral values, as discussed prior.
- Teamwork — Working well with others, at home or work, is another thing that applies in all areas of your life. If you want to grow as a human, you must understand and accept that you will do so in a community. It doesn’t matter if it’s small or large; you must develop the skills needed to work on various projects together.
- Time Management — In a world where time is becoming a coveted commodity, and every person seems to have less and less time for personal enjoyment, becoming more productive in all aspects of your life is vital. Learning how to prioritize, organize, and set up your time is extremely important for becoming more efficient and effective.
What Are Your Skills?
There are three parts to your skills analysis that come with the downloaded worksheets. The first two are work papers for identifying your hard and soft skills. The last part will document your top skills, meaning the things you are best at, at least now. Also, you will identify the things you are worst at, which might reveal areas of improvement for you. We will tackle those later during your learning plan.
Keep in mind that your skills are a source of pride for you. When people ask you about your skills, your ego comes into play. You sometimes exaggerate or embellish them. That’s okay to do on your resume; we all do it. But here, refrain from it—you are working toward your own growth. Nobody else will see this.
Don’t lie to yourself. Instead, be honest and tell the truth. Now is the time to put all your cards on the table. There are no sleeves in which to conceal any hidden aces. You are who you are. This process aims to identify the base, define the peak, and then help you create the path that takes you from the bottom to the summit. Fuzziness in any of those areas will lead you in the wrong direction and running in circles.
Keep that in mind as you go through the exercises.
As you did with your strengths and weaknesses, you can also involve your trusted circle to help you identify your skills. Ask your family to validate the list you came up with. See what they say. Look at your job’s last performance evaluation. Can you identify any connections there? The more information you get, the better. Just make sure it only comes from trustworthy sources and that you reflect and think about it and not just merely accept it as a fact.
This is a journey. It’s your journey, and in the end, you’ll be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Take your time and do the work, and you will soon reap the results.
And, as always, once you’ve completed this section, move to the next one, Discover Your Passions.
Feedback, Comments, Suggestions, Testimonials
Do you have any feedback, suggestions, comments, or ideas about the Self-Growth Journey Program? Or perhaps, you’d like to leave a testimonial for others to see? If so, please visit the feedback and testimonials page and let me know your thoughts. Thank you!