What Are My Skills? (With Types and Tips for Improving Them)
Updated November 30, 2022
Skills are the personal and professional traits that help you perform certain tasks. Regardless of your background and experience, learning about identifying and improving your skills can help you get better at what you do. Being able to answer the question “What are my skills?” can be helpful to your career development. In this article, we discuss what skills are, explore the two main types of skills, show how to identify yours, and provide tips on improving your skill set.
Answering the question, “What are my skills?”
Before attempting to answer the question “What are my skills?”, it's important to define the term. Skills are specific abilities, competencies, and theoretical concepts that can help you perform various tasks. Each individual set of skills generally depends on the person's life experiences and professional background. Achieving professional success typically depends on acquiring a distinct skill set based on the particular requirements of your job.
There are two main types of skills:
Hard skills are the specific technical abilities required to perform successfully in a certain role or industry. Professionals usually acquire them through education, professional training, and direct experience in their field. You may also develop them through more informal methods, such as pursuing certain hobbies or interests that require technical abilities. Each industry or individual role typically requires a specific set of hard skills for performing the tasks associated with them. When pursuing a career in a certain field, it's usually important to research the required hard skills and determine if and how you can master them.
Soft skills are personal traits and behaviours that can also help you improve your professional output. They mainly relate to how you mentally approach certain situations and how you interact with other people, with common examples being communication, teamwork, and leadership. Unlike hard skills, which are typically job or industry-specific, soft skills can be useful in any profession. Employers generally seek specific soft skills in job candidates because they're relevant for a professional's long-term success. As they relate to the individual's personality, they're challenging to teach.
How to identify your skills
Defining your current skill set can help you understand what you're good at, which can help guide your career. Consider following these steps to identify your skills:
1. Analyze your previous personal and professional accomplishments
You can start analyzing your skill set by thinking about various moments throughout your life and career when you accomplished something of value and the feedback you received from those around you. The following are some questions you can ask yourself:
What personal and professional qualities helped me achieve success at my previous workplaces?
What do I think my main strengths are?
What was I good at as a child?
What do people compliment me on most often?
What's my natural mindset and reaction when faced with a challenge?
2. Determine what you enjoy doing
People are generally more proficient at doing what they enjoy. Think about the activities you enjoy doing in your free time and try to determine the skills you require to do them well. This can help you identify the type of profession you're likely to be good at. For instance, if you love writing, you may have above-average writing skills, and if you love mathematics, you may have excellent numeracy skills.
You can also try to determine what comes naturally to you, such as various activities and situations that you think you can handle with less effort than most other people. These are also things you're likely to enjoy and are typically good indications of your main skills.
3. Take a personality assessment
Identifying your personality type can help you determine what some of your soft skills are and identify the hard skills that you may want to develop. Personality assessment tests use psychology to define a collection of personal traits that may indicate your strengths and areas for improvement. Employers commonly use them to determine if a candidate is likely to fit into their organization.
4. Attempt to do things you're not comfortable doing
You can discover new things you're good at by trying activities you haven't done before. Although doing this may be uncomfortable because of the feeling of uncertainty of doing things you're not familiar with, it may reveal certain qualities that you never knew you had. Identify some activities that you never attempted to do and try doing some of them, despite not being familiar with them.
Related: Skills vs. Abilities and Knowledge
5. List your discovered skills
After exploring your current skills by analyzing your background and personality and potentially discovering new skills by doing things you're not comfortable with, you can define your skill set by writing down your findings. You can separate them into hard and soft skills and identify new complementary ones. For instance, if you have good communication skills, you may have strong leadership or customer service skills. You can then use the list to compare it with job requirements in various fields and determine what would be appropriate for your skill set.
Tips on improving your skill set
Consider following these tips to improve your skills:
List the skills you want to improve. When attempting to improve your skill set, it's usually important to make a list of skills you want to improve, making the process more manageable. You can choose which skills to improve by determining which are currently in demand with employers.
Have a plan on how to improve your skills. If you know which skills you want to improve, you can start working on a specific plan. The contents of your plan depend on the skills you're working on, with general practices being to divide the skills into multiple sub-skills and work on developing each individual sub-skill.
Set specific and realistic goals. After assessing your current skill level, you can create a timetable and specific milestones to achieve in your attempt to improve your skills. This can help you stay motivated and keep track of your overall process, which can improve your chances of success.
Find a coach or mentor. It's usually easier to improve your skills when you learn from a person who has a history of successfully using them. You can identify and follow such people through networking websites or professional organizations, and when appropriate, you can ask them to provide you with specific advice or mentorship.
Find external support. While you can work on your skills individually, you may find extra structure and motivation by participating in group activities along with other people who also want to develop their skills. Joining a professional organization or training classes can help you learn quicker and connect you with like-minded individuals who may be useful as networking connections later in your career.
Be open to feedback and criticism. When getting feedback on your skill level, you may encounter suggestions and criticisms. It's usually important to analyze them logically and determine if you can use them to improve.
Constantly analyze your progress. You can determine if you're on track to achieve your skill-improving goals and milestones by finding objective ways of analyzing your progress up to a certain point in time. For example, you can record yourself and compare your current performance with past ones, ask other people to assess your progress, or find recognized benchmarks and compare them to your performance.
Try to enjoy yourself throughout the process. Finding ways to make improving your skills an enjoyable experience can improve your chances of succeeding. You can typically do that by either performing fun activities that also improve your desired skills or rewarding yourself after achieving certain milestones.
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