(She’s Got) Skillz


I have never felt like I had much in the talent department – I’m a hard worker, I try so hard…but there’s not a whole lot of natural skill and ability there. I’m uber aware of my limitations, and I believe that I know how to put in the extra effort required to mask my lack of ability. I wish things were different – I wish that life came easily and naturally to me, that I lived a charmed existence…that it was all champagne wishes and caviar dreams. But it’s not…not even a little bit. Anything that happens to me that is good is so hard-earned, which kind of makes it more sweet. I appreciate the good things that I have – probably because I remember all too well how crappy it is to not have them.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of talent, specifically how to cultivate the talent and blooming skills that might exist inside, capitalize on them, and grow them into something that can really blossom and flower. I don’t have much going on…so I need all the help I can get! 😉 A bit of research on talent inventories yields some interesting results –

Four Points to Ponder

Before itemizing your skills inventory, be sure to ponder the following four points. Keeping these points in mind can help you spot your strengths.

1. Go beyond the obvious: One key to accessing your strengths is to see beyond the functional roles performed by your job title. Indeed, a teacher tends to teach, a marketer markets stuff, and a manager often manages things. Get past job functions and look at your transferable skills sets. Some marketable skills sets include:

Communication: The ability to express and interpret ideas and convey knowledge. Skills like speaking effectively, writing concisely, listening attentively, expressing ideas, reporting information, editing, interviewing, and facilitating group discussion.
Research and Planning: The ability to search for specific knowledge and formulate a program for a definite course of action. Skills like forecasting, predicting, identifying issues, finding alternatives, gathering information, solving problems, setting goals, extracting information, and developing strategies.
Human Relations: The ability to apply interpersonal skills to resolve conflict, relate to people, and help people. Skills like providing support for others, listening, delegating with respect, representing others, asserting, developing rapport, and perceiving feelings.
Management, Organization, Leadership: The ability to supervise others and guide individuals and groups towards the completion of tasks. Skills like managing groups, selling ideas, making decisions, managing conflict, coordinating tasks, teaching, enlisting help.
2. List specific skills: Avoid generalizations and be specific about your skills. Try to list transferable skills which can be broadly applied across a number of fields. For example, “excellent communicator” is general, while “writes concise instruction manuals” is more specific.

3. Be brutally honest: We all can’t be good at everything. Ok, if you’re good at everything then please, stop reading. But if you’re like me, then you have some weaknesses which should be listed. For example, I am a terrible public speaker. I break into cold sweats whenever I face a crowd. I usually prefer avoiding roles where public speaking is of paramount importance. If you have some weaknesses, be sure to list them.

4. Consider hobbies, pastimes, and sports: Go beyond past careers and courses and consider all your hobbies, pastimes, and sports. There’s huge value in translating your strengths from your favorite activities to your career calling. Expand your skills inventory to include the wicked things you do on the weekends.

Itemizing Your Skills Inventory

With your worksheet in one hand and your Four Points to Ponder in the other, it’s time to itemize your skills inventory. This is not an easy task. I find listing my accomplishments, strengths, and weakness very challenging. Just throw away your humble nature and really be honest when listing your weaknesses and be tenacious by tallying your talents.

– Start by making a chronological list of all the jobs you’ve held since the beginning of your career. Go ahead and list some of your pastimes and hobbies too. If you are a new graduate student, then list all pertinent courses, projects, cooperative education experiences, and awards. Don’t be afraid to list both your stellar subjects and the courses you cursed. Remember, there is value in knowing what you are good at and where your weakness lies.

– Next to each job, hobby, or course make a note of the things you did well, and not so well. In the “Strengths” column, list your best skills. In the “Weakness” column, list what didn’t go so well in this position, course, or hobby.

– For each position, note what you believe was your most important accomplishment. Did you win a new customer, solve a problem, or sell above quota? Be thoughtful about this and try to go beyond the obvious. For new graduates, mention if you won a scholarship, aced an exam, or finished at the top of your class.

– Review all your responses and be sure you followed the Four Points to Ponder by going beyond the obvious, listing only specific skills, considering pastimes, and being brutally honest.

After filling in a few columns you may see patterns and themes emerging from the strengths and weakness throughout your career or coursework. When I’ve completed this exercise I’ve found surprising consistency over time. Being brutally honest really helps.


Here’s another:

WRITTEN COMMUNICATION: able to express yourself clearly in writing
I have this skill – 1
I’d like to improve it -2

______Thinking through in advance what you want to say

______Gathering, analysing and arranging your information in a logical sequence.

______Developing your argument in a logical way.

______Being able to condense information/produce concise summary notes.

______Adapting your writing style for different audiences.

______Avoiding jargon.

VERBAL COMMUNICATION: expressing your ideas clearly and confidently in speech
I have this – 1
Like to improve – 2

______Listening carefully to what others are saying.

______Able to clarify and summarise what others are communicating.

______Helping others to define their problems. Not interrupting.

______Being sensitive to body language as well as verbal information.

______Making the right impression by making effective use of dress, conduct and speech.

______Keeping business telephone calls to the point.

______Thinking up an interesting way to put across your message to groups.

______Successfully building a rapport with your audience when speaking to groups.

FLEXIBILITY: adapting successfully to changing situations and environments
I have this -1
Like to improve – 2

______Keeping calm in the face of difficulties

______Planning ahead, but having alternative options in case things go wrong

______Thinking quickly to respond to sudden changes in circumstances

______Persisting in the face of unexpected difficulties

PERSUADING: able to convince others, to discuss and reach agreement
I have this – 1
Like to improve – 2

______Putting your points across in a reasoned way.

______Emphasising the positive aspects of your argument.

______Understanding the needs of the person you are dealing with.

______Handling objections to your arguments.

______Making concessions to reach agreement.

______Using tact and diplomacy.

TEAMWORK: working confidently within a group

I have this – 1
Like to improve – 2

______Working cooperatively towards a common goal.

______Contributing your own ideas effectively in a group.

______Listening to others’ opinions.

______Taking a share of the responsibility.

______Being assertive – rather than passive or aggressive.

______Accepting & learning from constructive criticism. Giving positive, constructive feedback

LEADERSHIP: able to motivate and direct others

I have this – 1
Like to improve – 2

______Taking the initiative.

______Organising and motivating others.

______Making decisions and seeing them through.

______Taking a positive attitude to failure: persevering when things are not working out.

______Accepting responsibility for mistakes/wrong decisions.

______Being flexible – prepared to adapt goals in the light of changing situations.

PLANNING AND ORGANISING: able to plan activities & carry them through effectively
I have this – 1
Like to improve – 2

______Setting objectives which are achievable.

______Managing your time effectively/using action planning skills.

______Setting priorities – most important/most urgent.

______Identifying the steps needed to achieve your goals.

______Being able to work effectively when under pressure.

______Completing work to a deadline.

gathering information systematically to establish facts and principles
I have this – 1
Like to improve – 2

______Clarifying the nature of a problem before deciding action.

______Collecting, collating, classifying and summarising data systematically.

______Analysing the factors involved in a problem & being able to identify the key ones.

______Recognising inconsistencies in reasoning.

_______Using creativity/initiative in the generation of alternative solutions to a problem.

______Differentiating between practical and impractical solutions.

NUMERACY: able to carry out arithmetic operations/understand data
I have this – 1
Like to improve – 2

______Multiplying and dividing accurately.

______Calculating percentages.

______Using a calculator.

______Reading and interpreting graphs and tables.

______Using statistics.

______Planning and organising your personal finances effectively. Managing a limited budget.


I have this – 1
Like to improve – 2

______Word-processing skills.

______Using databases (e.g. Access)

______Using spreadsheets (e.g. Excel)

______Using the Internet and email.

______Designing web pages.

______Programming skills.


I have this – 1
Like to improve – 2

______Accepting responsibility for your views and actions.

______Showing the ability to work under your own direction and initiative.

______Making choices based on your own judgement.

______Paying care and attention to quality in all your work.

______Taking the opportunity to learn new skills.

______Developing the drive and enthusiasm to achieve your goals.

Now – put all your answers into a T-chart with these headings:




Ta-dah!!! 🙂 Good stuff there, eh? I hope you will give it a try – I’m working my way through my inventory now, trying to discover where my talents (if any) lie. I think my biggest problem is that I lack stick with it-ness (not a word, I know – just go with it). I try something, like it, become all passionate and obsessed with it, but as soon as the going gets tough, I bail. Turn tail and run. I do it with hobbies and pastimes, friendships, jobs, even relationships. It’s not good, friends…I need to learn to keep trying and not give up when things get hard. I need to practice the art of perseverance. It’s funny, I’ve never lacked perseverance at work, but have I ever had struggles with it in my personal life. Grr. Who knows – perhaps if I had stuck with something I dabbled in over the years, I could have shown a real gift for it and had it develop into something kinda big and awesome….instead, I’m a Jill of all trades, master of none. Hmm. Perhaps I should dig out the acrylic paint and a canvas and see what’s hiding inside of me???!! ♥♥♥

I would love to hear from you about your talent inventory, friends – and I’m pumped to hear from those of you who have found a way to make a living out of your talent. You rock!!! 🙂




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