Speaking “Skill Set” Translates to Better Careers
Most of us have heard the term “translating a skill set,” but many aren’t quite sure what it means, how it works, or why it’s important. As the economy continues to struggle and the world changes, jobs can become insecure or obsolete. New job titles emerge and each available position attracts multiple candidates. The ability to translate skills can put you a step ahead of the competition.
But what does it mean, exactly? Translating a skill set means breaking each job duty down into an underlying skill or skills. For example, a receptionist answers phones and transfers calls. That’s her primary function. But a good receptionist has many skills. She can be pleasant, professional, and courteous even when juggling multiple phone lines. She can manage unhappy callers with tact. She can keep track of the duties and availability of the company’s employees. And she’s able to work with callers who don’t have a specific contact; she can figure out their needs and get them to the right person. This is important because many jobs require the same basic skills. An out-of-work receptionist who understands her skill set is not limited to searching for receptionist jobs. She can explore retail, customer service, and entry-level sales positions, among others.
To identify skills, you’ll need to analyze your job carefully and determine what abilities you use in each function you perform. Remember to look beyond the obvious. Certain abilities are repeated so often that they lose impact. Three of the most overused and vague are “organizational,” “communication” and “people” skills. Yet all three are critical to many jobs. The trick is to delve deeper. Are you especially skilled at coordinating multiple vendors to create exciting special events that appear to come off without a hitch? Are you able to absorb complex information and break it down so that various audiences can understand it? Are you great at helping people make decisions or at helping two parties reach an agreement? Instead of settling for vague descriptions like “organizational skills,” articulate in a very specific way how you exhibit each of your skills.
Once you have a good understanding of your skill set, use your knowledge to create a clear, concise list of skills for your resume. If you are writing a chronological resume, you’ll list each skill under the job to which it applies. If you’re creating a functional resume, you’ll most likely have an “Executive Summary” or “Key Skills” section for this type of information. You may need to create a separate document containing your full skill set and copy only the most applicable skills into your resume each time you apply for a job. You can also pull key skills into your cover letters.
Translating your skill set extends to the interview as well. Be prepared to provide solid examples to prove each of the abilities you claim. For example, if you say you are good at conflict resolution, expect to tell the employer about a time you helped two parties come to a mutually beneficial agreement.
Understanding your abilities is valuable throughout life. If you’re seeking a promotion, evaluate the skills needed in the new position, then show your employer how you already demonstrate those skills in your current role. Thinking about starting your own business? Use skill set evaluation to find out what kind of company might be a good fit and to determine what additional abilities you’ll need to develop. You can even use the process to create a workable chore-sharing system with your spouse or partner.
Still struggling with the concept? Don’t worry. Analyzing your own abilities is a skill in and of itself. Like any other skill, it takes practice. If you need extra help, consider consulting with job coach, life coach or therapist who has experience with skill sets. But don’t give up! The benefits of skills assessment are well worth the time and effort you’ll invest.