How to recognise the skills and abilities you have and how to improve on them: Tips by Gerraint, E2C lead Ambassador
In the past, all I ever wanted to do was to work in administration, for example, working in a reception taking phone calls and greeting people, but back in 2016, I was in my local college “The Blaenau Gwent Learning Zone”. I was about to begin my Level 3 business and administration diploma course when I had a call from Zoe Richards (Chief Executive Officer for Learning Disability Wales).
She asked me if “would I like a part-time paid job as the Engage to Change project administration officer”. I immediately jumped at the opportunity and couldn’t resist, after all, you go to college to get a paid job, don’t you? I was in the role from 2016 – 2018, and at that time, the Engage to Change manager asked me to go for the Lead Ambassador role. I thought okay, but that’s quite a jump from being the project administrator to an ambassador. I asked her why you think I should go for it and she said, because “I’m a good connector with people, you’ve chaired several conferences and you’ve had plenty of experience in public speaking.”
Anyhow, in short, I got shortlisted, attended the interview and got the job, so in a nutshell what I’m trying to say is you might go to college or a university wanting to study a certain subject, but when a close friend, family or even an employer sees another hidden talent in you, go for it if you personally think it’s right for you.
What are skills?
This may seem like a silly question but it’s actually something worth clarifying. From some of my discussions with students during their appointments, there seems to be some confusion between ‘skills and ‘experience’. They are not the same thing and it’s important to know the difference. A skill is something that you are good at doing: it could come easy to you or be something you learn. An experience is where you learn skills through work, study or activities you do in your spare time.
When discussing what to put on their CV, lots of students say ‘I don’t have any relevant experience’. They think that recruiters are only interested in experience in a chosen field. Recruiters acknowledge students may not have relevant experience, so they want evidence of skills that they’ve learnt from any type of experience that is transferable for use in their work environment. Recruiters are not expecting you to do the job unsupervised from day one so they expect to provide you with on-the-job training.
Types of Skills
Skills can be divided into two categories; technical and soft skills.
Technical (Specialist) Skills
You learn technical skills during your degree, with extra training such as an online course or from previous work experience e.g., using specific software packages or specialist equipment.
Soft (Transferable) Skills
The term ‘soft skills’ undersells what they are; they are better defined as ‘transferable skills. They are skills you might learn in one experience which you can adapt to another. They are skills that can work in every type of job and that’s why they’re so important. They go beyond the ability to use a specific piece of equipment or do one specific thing.
Typical transferable skills sought after by recruiters are problem-solving, time management, communication, teamwork and leadership.
How do I identify my skills?
You already have lots of skills but may not be aware you possess them. There’s a lot to gain from reflecting on your skills and qualities and seeing how these can enhance your career and personal development. To analyse your skills and how they relate to skills employers look for, think about:
- Your personal qualities;
- Skills developed through study;
- Skills developed at work;
- Skills developed outside work.
- Personal qualities
Attributes such as patience, humour, initiative, and flexibility are relevant to the type of work you are suited to. The better you know yourself, the more likely you are to find a role that suits you. Your personality affects your style of operating in the workplace and the way you respond to situations.
Have you considered your own behaviour, emotions and reactions? Why not ask people close to you – they may be able to identify strengths and qualities that you haven’t considered.
- Skills developed through the study
You develop a wide range of skills as a student, such as commitment, self-motivation, and confidence, all valued by employers. For example, if you had assignments where you worked to strict deadlines, you can show that you have good time management and motivational skills.
- Skills developed at work
If you have work experience, you’re likely to have skills which are essential in that environment, such as communication, interacting with people, and being aware of the ways in which you learn and manage your time. Enhancing your capabilities in these areas can help you make the most of opportunities at work and will look good on your CV.
You may not recognise the wide range and high level of skills and abilities you have. Identify your skills by noting down all the jobs you have done which could be full-time, part-time or voluntary and think about what you learnt from each one and what skills you developed.
4. You gain valuable knowledge, understanding and skills from everyday experiences, and through training, hobbies, interests and involvement with voluntary organisations.
If you enjoy DIY, then you’ve no doubt planned a project, set yourself timescales, organised your work and seen it through to completion. If you’ve chaired meetings, you’re likely to have kept to deadlines and ensured that individuals have been included.
If you play sports, you’re likely to have teamwork and leadership skills. Look back over your work, studies or leisure activities and think about the tasks you completed in each. This helps you identify the skills you’ve learned.
According to Careers Wales, there are 10 Key skills want and strength
- Communication skills
Communication skills are what you say, but also include your body language and tone of voice. To be good at communicating includes being a good listener, being able to explain things clearly, and being able to ask the right questions. Communication is how you interact with other people. You need to be able to communicate both by speaking and in writing.
- Paying attention to detail
Paying attention to detail means that your work should be accurate, and not contain errors or mistakes. This is important for most jobs whether you are typing a document or measuring and cutting wood on a construction site.
Planning is the ability to think ahead and make decisions about the steps you are going to take in the future. When you plan, you are setting goals, and prioritising what task you will do first, then second, then next. Planning can be how you are going to do a task or activity. Planning could also be how you are going to use time and money in the future.
A good leader can influence, motivate, and guide others. When you have leadership skills you can motivate and guide others towards achieving a goal. Leadership skills are not just for managers. For example, a sports coach may be a leader.
Being enthusiastic is showing a lot of interest and enjoyment in something. Employers like to see that you are enthusiastic and keen about a job, or tasks. If you are very interested in something, you are more likely to do a good job.
When you are self-motivated it means that you are motivated to do or achieve something without needing anyone to tell you to do it. Employers like people who are self-motivated because they can trust you to work hard without needing a lot of supervision.
Problem-solving is finding answers and solutions to issues. When you solve problems, you identify the problem, find the cause, and then find solutions that will work. Problem-solving is also about fixing the problem.
Research is when you study and investigate to find out more about something. Research skills can be needed for specific jobs, but most employers like their employees to have the skill of finding out things on their own.
Thinking of new ways of doing things is called innovation. When you are innovative you will think of ideas and new methods to make improvements.
- Time management
Time management is being able to organise your time so that you are being productive and efficient. Employers like to recruit people who can get the most work done in the least amount of time.
Other skills employers look for include:
- Influencing and negotiation
- Analytical skills
- Organisational skills
- Ability and willingness to learn
- Critical thinking (observing, analysing an issue, and making judgements from the evidence)
- Making decisions
- Emotional intelligence (understanding and being able to control your own emotions, and handle relationships with others well)
Job specific skills
To find out skills specific to a job, visit Job Information and type in the job title.
Below are some job-specific skills that employers often ask for:
- Customer service
- Digital skills – use of IT
- Care and support
- Welsh language
- Practical and manual skills
- Design skills
Improve the skills and strengths you have, and increase your opportunities to get a job, get promoted or make a career change.
8 ways to improve your skills
- Get experience
Doing work experience, or volunteering gives you the opportunity to improve your skills and to learn new skills.
- Take training courses
Search for training that is skills-based or take just courses that interest you. Doing courses can improve your research skills, and self-motivation to study and learn.
Practice using your skills. For example, if you want to improve how you speak on the telephone, phone people more often.
- Learn from others
Find people who are good at the skill you want to improve. Observe and listen to them in action. Ask them to mentor or teach you.
- Be open to feedback and suggestions
Sometimes it can be hard to listen to criticism, but keep an open mind and learn from the feedback others give you.
- Take on a new challenge
Try something new to learn new skills or put your skills to the test. For example, maybe start a new hobby, try a new sport, or learn a language.
- Find learning opportunities at work
If you are at work, look out for training opportunities. You might also ask to work shadow or to be mentored to increase your skills if appropriate to your work environment.
- Focus on the positive
You already have skills and strengths. Always keep in mind what you are good at. This will help you as you focus on improving and learning skills.
Ways to discover your skills and Strengths
- Explore strengths and skills employers want.
Some skills and strengths are required by most employers, and some are specific to the job. Discover the skills and strengths employers want and note down the ones you are good at. Take time to think about ways to improve your skills and strengths. Employers will value experience and activities that improve your skills and strengths.
- Ask others what they think you are good at.
Talk to people you trust and ask them what they think you are good at. They have told you some of your strengths. Note these down.
One of your friends may tell you that they think you are a good listener. Being a good listener is a skill. A relative tells you that they think you are very good at planning and organising family gatherings and events, including family days out. Planning and organising are skills.
Ask yourself what your interests are and what you like to do. Note down what activities or tasks you enjoy doing. It’s likely that you enjoy them because you are good at them. The list of what you enjoy doing is some of your skills and strengths.
One of your hobbies may be repairing motorbikes. You can identify what the problem is, and have the skills to fix the motorbike. You also source the best value parts online. Problem-solving, practical and technical mechanical skills, IT skills to search for parts online, and budgeting are all skills
You might enjoy helping your elderly neighbour and spending time with them. You enjoy listening to their stories, and you do their shopping and help with gardening. Caring for others, being a support to others in time of need and giving practical help are skills.
Think of a typical day and all the activities you do within the day. List all the actions you take. It could include at home, at work, at school, college, work experience or volunteering, hobbies, interests or helping others in some way. You have just listed the things you can do – these are also likely to include your skills and strengths.
At work you may work with customers in a shop, greeting them, helping them to locate items, and handling complaints. Giving great customer service, being helpful, patient, and friendly and keeping calm in conflict are all skills and strengths. You might be part of a sports team. You train to keep fit, attend practices, obey the instructions of the team captain and coach, and also work as part of a team on the pitch. Self-motivation (to keep fit and attend practices), following instructions and working as part of a team are all skills and strengths.
Think about what motivates you. If you are motivated to do certain tasks then this is a clue that these might include your skills and strengths.
Doing DIY projects around the house might be something that motivates you. Practical tasks, and working with your hands are likely to be your strengths.
Volunteering as a driver for a local charity might be something that really motivates you if you enjoy driving and helping people in need. Driving safely, having a good concentration on the roads, good navigation, and supporting people in need are skills and strengths.