A very common question clients will ask at the outset of vocational counseling and development is “can you help me identify my skill set?” There are several things behind this question. We are very often disconnected from a subjective experiencing of our unique talents and capacities and instead have been trained to see “skills” from an objective arm’s length perspective. Skills are frequently seen as something learned, outside of ourselves, which we adopt and apply to specific tasks or roles. Somehow our “whole” self is left out of the equation and this often leaves us feeling unfulfilled, lacking enthusiasm, and simply not feeling at ease with what we are doing without knowing exactly why we are experiencing this general disconnect and discontent. It is no wonder many people have difficulty identifying and articulating their natural or “best fit”.
Discovering our many innate skills and capacities
Many skills are indeed learned, we continually learn throughout our lives, and every role or task we undertake requires specific know-how. But we also bring a wealth of innate skills, capacities and talents to everything we do and choose to engage in. We bring as well a specific sensibility, a unique identity, to all of our activities. I have seen this “sticking point” increasingly with my clients: difficulty joining an awareness and articulation of innate and learned skills with a strong desire for professional and vocational paths that integrate more naturally with their whole selves.
Each of us embodies unique talents and skills. YOU are a unique skill set and even better, your skill set continues to deepen and expand throughout your life. As Ken Robinson so succinctly states, “if you are a human being it [talents and abilities] comes with the kit”. We have a strong desire to discover vocational paths that feel and are experienced as a “natural fit” with one’s overall life. Ideally we want to experience a sense of congruence with what we do based on who we are, how we live, what we are interested in and enthusiastic about, and what we value, for example. We want careers, professions or jobs where we feel present, motivated and engaged. We want careers that make use of our unique skills, experiences, personality, capabilities, education and accumulated expertise. We all want to make a contribution, continue to develop and expand our talents and potential and feel a sense of mastery, meaning and fulfillment in what we do. We want to participate in and be a part of communities. Our unique “skill set” is always alive, never static, and encompasses all of these ingredients.
Learning to articulate your story
Being able to identify, describe and put into action your personal and unique skill set is in fact another skill! Each of us has a unique story to tell, a unique way we have woven together our accumulated experiences (what I call “experiential expertise”) both innate and learned. 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 and networking, or better yet, “conversing” your story is fundamental to accessing that best or natural fit. Being present in your experiencing, being aware of your ever-growing capacities, knowing what you value deeply and and the unique value you bring to a given role transforms a sought after ideal into a tangible reality.