This is a very common question clients ask at the outset whether they are young students beginning a process of career development or individuals navigating career transition. We often identify skills with the learned skills of a specific job or profession. Learned skills are, however, only one small part of the equation. While some of them may be transferable, the real skill lies in identifying, describing and putting into action your personal and unique skill set. It is literally a different skill! To limit our expertise, talents and capacities to the narrow lens of the learned skills of a specific job, role or task puts the emphasis on functional requirements and omits personal engagement. We leave out our innate skills, our active engagement in and with the job, our personal growth, our contribution, what we learned from our experiences or the overall meaning and value a job or role had for us.
What I increasingly see and hear with my clients is a strong personal desire to find a career path that feels like a natural fit. We want this natural fit to be a recognizable congruence of who we are, what we are interested in, and what we value. We want careers, professions or jobs that motivate and engage us but also ones where we feel our innate talents and our unique potential are actively incorporated into what we are doing. We want careers that make use of our unique skills, experiences, personality, capabilities, education, accumulated expertise, to name but a few. We also want to continue to expand our talents and potential, to feel a sense of mastery and fulfillment in what we do and ultimately to make a contribution. Once the term skill set is defined as encompassing all these ingredients, most people have difficulty in identifying and mapping out what their natural fit might be.
Here are a few examples of questions to ask yourself. If you are just starting and developing a career path, these questions can be asked of any experiences you have had. If you are in the process of career transition, these questions can be asked of jobs and positions you have held:
- What did I learn and experience in that role/job/task?
- Can I describe some of my personal skills?
- Which of these personal skills were most prominent in a specific role, job, task?
- In what ways did I grow personally and professionally?
- What did I learn about the organization, the job or the particular profession?
- What new perspectives did I gain? What did I learn about myself?
- What did I enjoy and why? Was this a successful experience for me?
- What was challenging for me and why?
- What did I personally bring to the role – what was personally meaningful? How did I bring the role to life?
- What personal contributions did I make?
- What expertise, skills, or perspectives - further developed - could I carry forward into my next role/job?
Reflecting on such questions helps us practice being aware of ourselves in our work. This is different from viewing ourselves objectively in terms of the function of the job. Such a functional perspective provides only limited information and keeps us at arms-length from developing an active and practiced awareness of how we experience a job day to day, how we experience ourselves in a job day to day, how we relate to our colleagues and to the work itself, how we adapt, learn and grow. A broader reflective practice offers access not only to a living and expanding personal skill set, but also keeps us actively engaged in our own career development.
Each of us has a unique story to tell, each of us posseses unique talents that continue to emerge as we experience and engage in life, each of us has unique ways of weaving together our accumulated experiences. Each of us breathes life into what we do in unique and different ways. Recognizing these very personal ways of being, learning to articulate them confidently both verbally and in written form (profiles, CV’s, Bio’s) and networking your story are fundamental to accessing the natural fit you strive for. Understanding who you are and the unique value you bring to a given profession or job transforms a sought after ideal into a tangible reality.