Matching your skills and talents to specific jobs.

Now that you’ve spent some time considering your interests, the next step in your self-assessment is to think about the abilities you currently have, which jobs your current skill set might best be suited for, and what adjustments you might want to make to better prepare for the type of job you want.

A skill is a learned and practiced ability. A skill can be used to create something (writing is used to create a poem, essay, or book), to provide a service (accounting is used to prepare tax returns, database design is used to organize information), to work with tools or equipment (driving a bulldozer, running a printing press, fixing a computer), or perform tasks (cooking a meal, planting a garden, playing hockey). Everyone has talents that can be developed into skills or abilities with practice and guidance.

Every job requires the mastery and application of some set of skills. The better you are at doing something an employer needs, the more attractive an applicant you’ll be, and the more value you will have as an employee. Take a moment to review your interest inventory and the brainstorming you did about your interest-related jobs. What sorts of skills do you think those jobs require? What kinds of skills do you think an employer would want to see in applicants for each of those positions?

Here is an example of how one student was able to hone her talents and focus her interests into a marketable skill set: Meagan had always enjoyed writing poems and stories, listening to all kinds of music, and playing the saxophone in her free time. In high school, Meagan was active with the school newspaper and was the editor of the school literary magazine. She worked hard in her English classes, sought out feedback from her teachers about writing, and read constantly in her free time. She was also a member of the Jazz band and enjoyed playing at school concerts. In college, Meagan majored in journalism and minored in music. She joined the college newspaper, first as a weekly music reviewer and finally as the editor of the music section. By the time she graduated, she’d had an article about Jazz history published by an online national college newspaper, and dozens of articles in her portfolio. When she applied to be a staff writer at a national Jazz and culture magazine, Meagan was able to demonstrate the value of her skills as a journalist and her command of Jazz history—and her longtime interest in both writing and music—through the work she had steadily collected over the years. Her background was such a perfect match, and she showed such proficiency in the skills required for the position, that she was hired immediately.

Taking a thoughtful inventory of your current skills will help you:

  • Identify areas of proficiency and ability
  • Assess how your skills might support work in your areas of interest
  • Begin to think about how you might market your skills to a potential employer
  • Identify those skills that you might want to spend the most effort on improving

Next: Assignment: Skills and Abilities  Previous: Skills and Abilities

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