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Just how skilled am I, then?

Journey 1

Our natural modesty can often make it difficult for us to showcase our own strengths and skills. What we look at here is working out what skill(s) we might have, and then how they would appeal to someone else.

People in the UK often tend, by nature, to be modest, and sometimes even self-effacing (except for ‘The Apprentice’ candidates). And of course in some ways it’s an endearing quality, “…he’s an absolutely brilliant painter but so modest with it.” It’s a very human trait but which, sadly, can often lead to great opportunities being missed. 

Why is it so important to be able to identify our own skills, particularly those that might be useful to an employer? It’s because when we approach someone in the hope of being offered a job, we are presenting ourselves as a ‘product’ and the employer as the ‘customer’; that, essentially, is the process here. 

Whenever you’ve bought anything, from a phone to a car, you’ve probably looked at the features and benefits and then made a decision to buy based on these facts. So when we consider our own ‘features & benefits’, we are able to present them as skills. And knowing what these skills are, and why they might appeal to the ‘customer’, is important.

A good way to start is to look at our own work history, year by year, and work out our achievements – however small – and what skills we used at that time. We might be surprised to find out that we have more skills than we thought.

Of course some skills are easy to identify, such as those used by a tailor or a surgeon, but some less so. The so-called ‘soft’ skills employed by a good manager can include things like leadership, communication, and an ability to persuade people, and they are just as important – as anyone involved in sales will tell you.

A good way of identifying our skills is to review our CV and place on the front page four key skills that we know will appeal to the reader, whoever they may be. For example, if our pipes are leaking at home, chances are we’ll want to get a plumber – i.e. not a general handyman. Your four skills say that you’re really good at these and you want the reader to say, “Hah! Plumber! Exactly what we need..” (A long list of skills on a CV is pointless as it’s just seen as that: a long list. The longer the list, the more diluted it becomes.)

Most people can offer a range of skills e.g. to be able to cook a posh meal, but also to audit a set of business accounts. However, only one of those is likely to appeal to a prospective employer. We need to pick out the ones that are the most important, do our research and really know what that attraction is and how to capitalise on it.

Finally, we have to be able to know the difference between a ‘skill’ and an ‘attribute’. Very simply, a skill is something you can get through experience and/or tuition. In most cases, an attribute tends to be something we were born with or comes naturally to us. It’s often a very fine distinction – and easily confused.

Our own personal skills are hugely important - both to us and a potential employer – and the ability to identify these and see them as features & benefits in what is the ‘product’ (ourself) is absolutely vital in our presenting a brand image.

Once we have a range of known skills from which to draw, we can work with those individually to great effect.

The public sector in Scotland is so varied and it has opportunities for people with all types of skills and attributes, and working in the public sector can help develop these for individuals so they can enjoy rewarding short, medium and long term careers.

Key Points

  • Are we all too modest?
  • How to identify our key skills
  • Why do they become our ‘features & benefits’?
  • What different types of skill are there?
  • How best to present them
  • When is a skill not a skill?