Time To Take Inventory

In the last installment Watch Your Q’s and A’s, we talked about the differences between skills, qualifications and accomplishments.  Now it’s time to take inventory of those skills. Taking stock of what you know how to do and where each skill can best be applied enables you to tell employers you have what they need to solve specific problems.  The more ways you can describe what you do, the better you can address those employer needs and improve your chances of getting hired.
Start by making a list of the skills you know you have, including both hard and soft skills.  Hard skills being the ones you learned and mastered; soft skills are your basic and everyday skills like interpersonal communications and other skills you have used your whole life.  (For a slightly more in depth look at your soft skills, go to the Nice n Soft blog entry.)  It may not be necessary to list all your skills on your resumes or reference them in your cover letter. The ones you actually use will depend on the kind of work you’re looking for and your time in the work force.
The more skills you list, the easier it will be to address the needs of a particular employer and position.  To help you in deciding which ones to use, look at the job announcements you are responding to and look for some of those same words from your lists in the announcements. Those key words are often used as filters, either by electronic resume scanning systems, the human eyes of recruiters, or both, in the employer’s attempts to identify who can do what they need done.  Your use of those key words in your documents lets the employer know you are able to tackle those needs.
But another reason for identifying your skills, is so that you become comfortable verbally discussing what you can do.  For many people, face-to-face social networking can be just as nerve wracking an experience as interviewing, especially if you’re meeting decision makers who can put you in a job of interest.  In circumstances like these rattling off what you know how to do coherently may not come easily.  But if you have refamiliarized yourself with your lists, you will be more comfortable talking with others about what you can do for them in the workplace.
And as you look at your skills lists, don’t hesitate to include the finer points and specifics of your skills.  For example, saying that you “write code” is a good start, but specifying the particular computer coding languages you are strongest in, and the types of applications to which you contributed, gives a clearer picture of what you can do.  Saying that you are a teacher is a pretty broad statement, but explaining that you are a  specialist with an emphasis in early childhood educational development paints a more specific picture.  And your comfort with these concise descriptions will also help you formulate your Accomplishment statements.
After you’ve compiled your full list of skills, prioritize them.  Create one list that puts your skills into an historic perspective, with your most recently acquired skills at the top, and your oldest skills last.  This kind of list helps in your resume creation because the items in each resume category are presented in reverse chronological order (most recent first).
Another way to prioritize your skills is by their importance and the likelihood you will use them on your next job. This enables you to find items in your list that satisfy employer wants as stated in job descriptions and emphasize the most relevant and important.
The exercise of creating a skills inventory improves your retention of both the larger and smaller details about your skills and how you have applied them in the past, so that you can more readily and strongly address employers’ needs, both in networking and for your job search documents.  How often should you take inventory of your skills?  That depends on how many new skills you acquire and have become comfortable using.  But doing so once a year, is a good idea.
So whether you are looking for a new job or a promotion, now is a good time to take inventory, rediscover your work history and gain a renewed perspective on what you’ve done and what you can do.
For more information on skills identification, job search and your career development, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com