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Last updated on 4/28/21

Identify your skills

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Identifying your skills impartially and realistically is fundamental in building a solid career plan if you are to navigate the job market with ease!

The idea here is to help you with this groundwork by showing you a simple and well-structured approach to describing your skills and strengths and thereby showcase your profile.

The method step-by-step:

  1. Start by listing your professional and personal experiences; if you already have a CV, you can use it to help trace your career path. (Follow the course Build your job search strategy in order to create or improve your CV!)

  2. Next, you will pinpoint which skills you have used: knowledge, expertise and/or social skills.

  3. Assess your level of proficiency based on your accomplishments and goals achieved.

  4. You could also set skill development goals so you can expand your skill portfolio and be a good fit for the type of profile sought for your profession.

We suggest you follow the method below, step-by-step, if you want to stack all the odds in your favour! (Steps 3 and 4 will be elaborated in the next chapter.)

Take stock of skills

List your professional and personal experiences

Even if you’re as young as 20 years old, you’ve already had many experiences in life: studies, travels, internships, people you’ve met, etc. You may have taken up athletic or artistic challenges, contributed to or run charity or humanitarian projects. You have certainly had experiences that have forged aspects of your character: bravery, tenacity, helpfulness. In some cases, simply studying away from home or taking a gap year has helped develop your independence and a sense of responsibility.

Think about all of your previous professional and personal experiences because they are all of interest! They have helped you learn more about a particular sector of activity, profession, working method, product, etc. and to develop your skills. You’ve been able to forge social skills in practical circumstances that can be applied in a professional environment.

As well as purely professional experiences, here are some examples of other experiences that you can include in your research:

  • student jobs, summer jobs

  • short/long internships, end-of-course placements

  • volunteer work

  • experiences linked to student life (collective projects, tutoring work, etc.)

  • travel, leisure and cultural activities, etc.

The table below gives examples of various experiences you might have had:

Category

List of experiences

Job(s)

Administrative assistant at the town hall

 

Internship(s)/Placement(s)

1 month practical internship (during 1st year of degree): salesperson in a bakery
4-month placement: Project assistant in an SME

Volunteer work

First-aider with the Red Cross

Homework club tutor

Student activities

Group project: creation of an association helping people with disabilities find and keep work

Travel

3-month trip to Spain

2-month trip to Russia

Cultural activities

Studied piano playing for 10+ years

Exercise

Use the example above as a model and fill out the chart with your own experiences and examples.

Identify experience-based skills

You’ve listed your experiences. You’re now going to express them as skills!

You’ve had the opportunity to undertake or complete various projects, convince clients or prospects, design a website, prepare an advertising campaign, etc.

In each case, you’ve drawn on qualities and used your knowledge, expertise, social skill, etc.

But which ones? 😅

Some of you may find an intermediate step useful if you have trouble identifying your skills directly. For each experience, list the projects and tasks you were entrusted with, the responsibilities you assumed, the results obtained and the goals you achieved.

In order to determine which skills you have developed, let's adapt the skill formula that we used in the previous chapter:

  1. Begin your sentence with, "Following this experience, I am able to / I’ve learnt to…”

  2. Then add an action verb,

  3. then the object of the action,

  4. followed by the context in which the action took place: the location, circumstances, time period, etc.

  5. Lastly, add evidence of the skill: “because I had to do / I did…”

To be as comprehensive as possible, it's useful to also try this process backwards:

  1. Look carefully at what you have created and achieved; in other words, start with your output.

  2. Pinpoint the skill(s) you have used and thus ‘proved’!

For example:

'I drew up the calendar of the inter-establishment basketball tournament...'     ⤵️

'...Therefore, I am capable of planning and organising a large competition welcoming up to 20 different teams.'

It’s your turn now! 😁

Exercise

  1. Use the same table that lists your various experiences.

  2. Add a ‘Skills’ column and a ‘Proof’ column.

  3. For each of your experiences, try to determine 3 or 4 skills developed. Make sure you include proof!

  4. If you find it hard, add a column listing all your experiences before identifying your skills.

  5. Use the examples from the table below to help you complete the template. 

List of experiences

Skills developed

Output/concrete proof of these skills

Administrative assistant at the town hall (summer job)

 

“Thanks to this experience, I am capable of...”

...creating Excel charts showing the change in demand for social housing.

The Excel charts produced, for example

 

1 month practical internship (during 1st year of degree): salesperson in bakery:

 

“Thanks to this experience, I am capable of...”

...ensuring customers receive good quality service during peak periods.

A reference letter from the bakery owner

 

First-aider with the Red Cross

 

“Thanks to this experience, I am capable of...”

...rapidly identifying emergency situations.

...coming to the assistance of any injured parties.

 First Aid Certificate

 

You can keep this table up-to-date throughout your career; never forget to build and manage your skills portfolio.

Summary

Analysing your skills is essential in building a plan that is both coherent and sound. It will help you develop your career plan and make real choices based on the best of yourself: what you do well and what you enjoy doing! Use a 4-step method to pinpoint your skills:

  1. List all your experiences, whether professional or personal, including internships, volunteer work, travel, etc.

  2. Pinpoint the skills you have used or developed for each experience. Remember to prove the skill: what result can I show or explain?

    Head to the next chapter for steps 3 and 4! 

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement