Summary: You can narrow down your job search by identifying your skills and interests. Communicating your strengths, skill sets, and priorities can help hiring and HR managers see you as a valuable team member.
How to Describe Who You Are and What You Bring to a Career
You may have already started to look into a career path and are on your way. Regardless of where you are in the career process, it’s always a good time to start thinking about how you describe your education, career experience, and transferable skills in introduction documents like cover letters and résumés. Here, we walk you through a 5-step process to help you develop phrases that will accurately describe who you are, what you can bring to a job, and what will make an employer want to learn more.
Knowing Your Skills, Interests, and What Makes You Unique
“Self-starter,” “team player,” “out-of-the-box thinker,” “results-focused.” Chances are you have or will see these terms in job descriptions. Employers may use these types of phrases to search for self-sufficient employees.
How can you stand out to a potential employer? By knowing your skills and interests, you can highlight what makes you unique without resorting to phrases with little real meaning. These next steps will help you identify and hone your skills and interests, so you can identify and target your search for the jobs that will best fit you.
Step 1. List Your Proudest Experiences
Review the things you have done so far and list the experiences that made you feel the happiest, most energized, and proudest. Career experts at the University of Waterloo in Canada call these experiences “pride experiences.” They suggest you list only those activities and accomplishments that make you want to exclaim to somebody, “I did it myself!”
Examples of pride experiences:
- I helped two friends settle an argument.
- I designed a website.
- I taught a class of young children how to swim.
- I built my own bookshelves.
- I won class president at my high school.
- I received an internship abroad.
Step 2. Detail Your Favorite Experiences
After you have made a list of your pride experiences, choose 5 to 7 of your favorite experiences and write a story about them in more detail. How did you accomplish these experiences? These stories are resources for creating or updating your résumé or writing a cover letter. You can also use them in job interviews when asked about your accomplishments.
Step 3. Identify Your Skills
Skills are the things that you can do. Making a bookshelf or being a creative teacher are examples of skills that only some possess. Transferable skills are those skills that can be most useful in a variety of jobs and working conditions and can be divided into three broad categories.
Three categories of transferable skills:
- Things – Working with machines, vehicles, or tools and can build or fix many things; this also can include caring for plants or animals
- Information and ideas – Gathering, managing, or analyzing information or creating and implementing new ideas
- People – Working with people in groups or individually, which can include skills in teaching, caring-giving, supervision, management, or leadership
One way to identify transferable skills is with a checklist. You can easily find several checklists online that career experts have analyzed and grouped into categories of job-related skills. Suppose you are still determining your transferable skills. In that case, the following online checklists can be useful in identifying them—try several lists to gather the most information about your skills.
Online skill checklist examples:
- Try a career assessment from Minnesota State Careerwise
- Job Skills Checklist from Purdue Online Writing Labs
Once you have a comprehensive list of skills, identify 5 to 10 skills that stand out to you. Place each of your favorite skills on individual cards or sticky notes.
Step 4. Identify Your Interests
Interests are the things you like to do and can come from hobbies, volunteering, or pursuing personal activities for enjoyment. However, think about your interests in terms of a job and determine what you want to do all day, several days a week.
Your skill stories and self-assessment results will help you identify many of your interests. Think of those interests that would be enjoyable in a work environment. List at least 5 to 10 interests from your stories and assessments. Place each of your interests on a sticky note or card.
Step 5. Find Patterns and Prioritize
Now that you have your favorite 5 to 10 interests on sticky notes or cards and 5 to 10 skills on sticky notes and cards, it’s time to look for patterns. Earlier, this article discussed that transferable skills fall into three categories: being skilled with things, information, or people. Do any of your sticky notes fall into these categories? Can you determine a pattern or theme from any of your sticky notes? Consider a working environment and sort your cards or sticky notes using them as job descriptions from most appealing to least appealing jobs.
Your Career List
The activities in this article, like writing experience stories, completing skills and interest assessments, and looking for patterns, are intended to help you better define your skills and interests for pursuing a career or seeking a job. When you have a detailed list of your experiences, skills, and interests, you can start looking for jobs or careers that complement your list. The list can also serve as talking points for a job interview.
Save this list where you can refer to it often. The compiled list can also aid you in crafting a résumé or in writing a cover letter for a job application. It’s also good to look at your list occasionally to see if it accurately reflects your skills and interests. As you continue your career journey, you may wish to add to your list or edit it to fit your needs.