Skip to main content

Your attributes – and their attractiveness

Journey 2

Recognising your own attributes is not always easy – how you appear to others, for example – and you must differentiate between attributes and skills. Being able to identify what these are, however, is crucial in painting the picture that captures the ‘real you’.

People often confuse ‘skills’ with ‘attributes’, especially when writing a CV. Put simply, a skill can be learned, whereas an attribute is something you tend to have been born with. So, how do we work out the difference between the two?

To give an example, someone might be able to claim specific, work-related or technical skills, e.g. a social worker, surveyor, a financial accountant – in other words a skill which is probably essential to their employer. And these skills will have been learned through their own on-the-job training and/or experience. So - a skill, yes. But the employer might need that same person to lead a team, in which case leadership ‘skills’ will be required. The ability to lead is definitely an attribute - as is, e.g., confidence, ambition, resilience, reliability, a generally positive nature; the list goes on....

Some of these might also fall under the general heading of ‘soft skills’: so-called ‘interpersonal skills’; the ability to communicate; customer care; the ability and understanding to provide good service. There are those who would claim these to be an attribute, but each can be taught and learned as a skill, each on their own a key part of the job. However, it’s more often your attitude that can make you attractive and if you do lead a team and are seen to have a positive, open and engaging manner – possibly with a sense of humour (although not David Brent in The Office!), these will be seen more as attributes rather than as skills, soft or otherwise.

You might think that listing your own key attributes might be rather self-indulgent, but you need to be aware of how others – particularly your peer group and colleagues – regard you. 

How would you list your strengths and weaknesses (in their eyes)? Are you, for example, seen as: engaging; team player; reliable; conscientious; a leader; amusing? 

Thinking about others and recognising their attributes might help you to recognise your own, and so begin to create a picture of what it is about you that’s both attractive and, when required, marketable.

Knowing your key attributes is a vital aspect of knowing how, and why, you might be ‘attractive’, not only to a potential new employer but also to your peer group and colleagues.

Your attributes can vary from a vast range of possibilities but recognising those in others will help you to work out your own. If not, you can always ask…

Key Points

  • Know what a skill is, and what is an attribute
  • What are ‘soft skills'?
  • Which of those can be taught and learned?
  • List your own attributes as others might see them
  • Attitude >>> = Attribute