Maybe there was an era long ago when we could tell people our job roles and they knew exactly what we did for a living. But that is long gone. Now, you may find that you need to focus more on understanding your real skills. It can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it, but we can all agree on these points:
- Our roles are constantly changing
- Industries everywhere are undergoing transformative shifts
- The value of a traditional job title is diminishing due to the big shift happening in large enterprise systems, where titles are being replaced by skills
- You are defined by your skillset more than your title!
Now, your capacity to identify and communicate the skills you have picked up in your career is a pivotal part of meaningful career progression. Let’s take a closer look at what it means to understand your real skills as the foundation for career growth and any insights I can give into effectively leveraging them. You may already know what you want to transition to, in which case I recommend looking at my other blogs (moving to tech is very popular these days!) so you can keep your eye on the latest trends and best practices.
This is the first article of many where we will start to engage with the idea of skills and how you can use them to learn, advance your career, and promote yourself, either inside your existing organization or using them to find a new job. Think of skills as a global language that can easily give you advantages in many situations. For instance, early on in this blog I talked about using skills to move into a new industry.
The case for skills: a world where defining what you do is becoming difficult
The world is moving to a skills-first approach for companies because many roles today need a blend of skills. Additionally, it’s impossible to really draw the boundary for any role. Advancements in technology, rapid globalization, and the emergence of startups around the world have changed what it means to be a career person. The priority is in understanding your real skills now, not aiming for a job title.
This shift is not just a consequence of how dynamic our industries have become, but also a strategic move to make the most out of roles and skillsets that align more closely with the multifaceted demands of contemporary workplaces.
For example, if you have ever worked in a startup then you know just how important it is to be flexible with your responsibilities and time at the office. Hustle culture isn’t the healthiest long-term career goal to have, but tons of people find themselves embroiled in it anyway. You are across several departments and you may need to work on some weekends. Another example of how dynamic this evolution has become is the role of someone working in operations. This domain is infamous for its complexity and diversity. One way to measure your progress in an operations role and place some definition in that position would be to look at the skills needed to succeed, not at the department that the role might be in. Great operation specialists need to be good at data analytics and people management.
This might be tough if you are used to thinking about career progression in terms of titles. Try this exercise: take a common role and think of how one’s experience as a working person may have let them “level up” their skillset in one way or another. Instead of being just a “Sales Manager,” you might have a proven track record of negotiation prowess, market analysis skills, and persuasive communication abilities. That’s how you uncover and start understanding your real skills.
Using skills to understand what you enjoy and are good at
As you look back at your career, what parts of your day-to-day grind did you enjoy best? What skills did your peers and managers appreciate you for the most? Let’s come up with the top three skills and start from here.
Take note that these don’t need to be the exact skills you would find on Linkedin, but just an initial look at what the market would use for these actions. For example, you may have enjoyed making videos or convincing people. In industry speak, you could say that you are a creative person who likes working with visuals, or a charismatic salesperson who enjoys building relationships. You could even take a look at all the hard skills you’ve acquired, and see what you can extract from there. This exercise can help you understand what you are really good at and somehow help you understand what are the positions and skills you truly want to focus on.
In my experience, employees are not great at working with skills. Sometimes they overthink some of their abilities and underestimate some others, just because they don’t spend enough time thinking about what they do well and what they enjoy to do. Not only that, sometimes you focus on hard skills and hard skills only, and you forget that most of your career will be based on your use of soft skills more than tech and specific skills.
What’s the difference between hard skills and soft skills?
Hard skills are what you need to be competent at a job. These are technical skills that you have to train for and practice regularly. These skills are what job recruiters usually list down in job descriptions when they have openings to fill. On the other hand, soft skills are the qualities that you use to define your workplace behavior. They’re a part of your personality. Once they are sure that you can do the job, a recruiter will look at your soft skills—how you performed at the interview, character references by former employers, and your conduct during the first few weeks at the organization—to make sure that you are a good fit for the team. This entire process of trying to find out what you’re good at is actually a soft skill in itself. I believe improving your self-awareness is the key to making the most out of your career and by extension, your life. You can make more informed career decisions and you won’t be easily swayed by other external factors.
Soft skills are more difficult to define. I know it’s easy to say you are good with Python as a programming language, but how do you explain your ability to convince people and align them with your objectives? It that negotiation? Still too general. Again, soft skills are critical and you should spend even more time defining them than hard skills. Try to find a way to connect them to a project or a real example, it will make easier for people inside your organization to understand what you are good at and how you could be a fit for a specific role or project.
How to assess your skills
Assessing your hard skills is fairly straightforward. You can get the necessary certifications or re-certifications in your field to make sure you are still staying sharp. Updating your resume and LinkedIn profile with skills is a great option, and if you want, you can create a profile on Anthropos and fill out the specific sections on skills for each experience. Aside from Linkedin, you could also try taking personality tests. The Myer-Briggs Type Indicator and Enneagram may be able to provide some insights to how you are predisposed to being better at some things or more productive in some environments. The websites I’ve linked to here also include career analyses when they send back your test results.
Depending on your industry you might find specific e-learning solutions and platforms that will assess your skills. Unfortunately LinkedIn is not as good as it should be on assessing people skills but there are many options out there for hard and soft skills.
Moving from skills to job roles
Finally, you have a clear understanding of your real skills. The last step is learning how to look at job openings with a keen eye, and finding positions that you could pursue. There may be cases where there are job openings that you would be a great fit for, but haven’t quite nailed down the wording that best explains what they want out of their candidates.
To remedy this, try going on O*NET database. It’s like an online encyclopedia for jobs and you can get the following information:
- What the people in those jobs actually do
- The skills and knowledge required
- The education and training needed
- How much money you can expect to make
O*NET is specific for the US market, in Europe you can consider something similar with ESCO.
Even if you are not based in the United States, the O*NET is still a useful resource that will help you stay informed about the latest changes in job descriptions, required skills, and emerging careers. I highly recommended checking back on this site regularly, even when you are not actively searching for a job. If you don’t need to look for openings, at least you can identify new skills that you may need to stay competitive.
Why your employer loves knowing more about your skills
Employers are increasingly valuing the flexibility of skills over the rigidity of job titles. When you know what you’re good at and you can articulate this effectively, you are already an asset. Make sure you have a section dedicated to covering your hard and soft skills in your resume. It doesn’t need to take up a lot of space, but just put in enough to help them paint a picture of who you are as an employee working in the role as well as a team member in their organization.
Helping employers in understanding your real skills gives them the opportunity to place you in roles where you can thrive, as well as teams where you are with peers who have complementary skills. In the end, everything boils down to this: the future of career progression lies in understanding your real skills. As industries continue to transform, the ability to adapt and leverage your skills becomes paramount. By shifting the focus from job titles to skills, you position yourself for a more fulfilling and dynamic career journey. So, take the time to assess your skills, identify what you enjoy and excel at, and watch as you unlock a world of possibilities in the modern job landscape.