Skills are a critical component in personal branding. Identifying your skills can be a challenge, and selling those skills- an ever bigger challenge. Furthermore, if you are a liberal arts student, you may be feeling insecure about what you have to offer. If so, it’s time for a skills assessment.
Self Assessment in Career Development
I’m a big fan of self assessment, especially as a first step in the career development process. Many career centers offer self assessments and inventories that help you identify your interests, skills, values and personality type. The Strong Interest Inventory and the Self Directed Search assess your interests while the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and the Keirsey Temperament Sorter look at personality type. A values inventory assesses the characteristics of your ideal job, such as what motivates you. Rutgers Career Services offers a nice values assessment. Finally, a skills assessment, like Skillscan and O*NET Online’s Skill Search, helps you to identify your strengths.
I’ve chosen to discuss skills in this post because I think this area of self assessment is often underrated. When was the last time you looked at a list of skills and ranked your abilities? Were you honest? I find that college students have a hard time identifying and appreciating their abilities because they are not necessarily accessing a full spectrum of skills as students.
“Good Communication Skills”
Let’s look at a popular skill set with college students: communication. Students often mention “good communication skills” in their cover letters, yet I find myself encouraging them to be more specific. Give more detail about what type of communication skills you are trying to sell and relate it to the skills that are required in the job description. The communication skill set entails several distinct abilities:
- Interpersonal communication
- Public speaking and presentation
- Written communication
- Persuasiveness/ability to sell
- Negotiation and conflict mediation
- Teaching and instructing
Take a look at the list of communication skills above, and rank your abilities within each of the specific categories. Are you really good at making presentations? writing press releases? mediating between two conflicting parties? If so, then labeling your skill as merely “good communication skills” isn’t enough!
Skills of a True Professional
There are several competencies that are highly important in the workplace, but which are harder for young adults to realize until they have had some professional work experience. These include:
- Ability to receive criticism and feedback
- Seeks clarification or more information when necessary
- Is coachable
- Admits when they have made a mistake
- Effective collaboration with others on projects
- Motivates and empowers team members
- Good time management
- Using email as a professional communication tool
- Tolerance of ambiguity
- Intercultural competency
- Critical thinking
Think about the list of higher level skills above – have you developed any of these competencies in internships or through upper level coursework, such as writing a senior thesis? Focus on the types of skills that are required in today’s workplace, rather than the skills that are listed in your current internship description. An important lesson in personal branding is to adopt your own terminology that you will use when you are pitching your brand. Try to hone in on what makes you unique by being specific about your skills, interests, values, and personality type. Too often, students use the same vocabulary as their peers when describing their strengths and their goals.
Schedule a Self Assessment
A healthy dose of self assessment will help you come up with an accurate and individualized list of descriptors that really capture your brand. One great reason to meet with a career counselor is to explore your career center’s resources including online self assessment tools and worksheets that counselors will interpret for you. Self assessment can be a fascinating and fun process.
Nicole Anderson is an Assistant Director/Career Counselor for Tufts University Career Services. With fourteen years of experience in college career services, Nicole’s expertise includes career counseling undergraduates, graduate students, and alumni from liberal arts, science, engineering, business, and education.