In my career coaching experience, two of the hardest things for most people are to:
- Truly describe a skill they have
- Provide a complete inventory of their skills
What do I mean by the first one? Here is an example. When I say “creative” what comes to mind? Dictionary says this: ” involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work”. Creative is a very rich word. It has so many different incantations, depending on your frame of reference. But if you limit it to “artistic”, you miss a lot
Artistic? I joke that I cannot draw a stick man. Painting? Ha! I am not a singer. As a dancer, I can get by passably with Rose as my partner, but no one would confuse me with someone who has great rhythm and flows on the dance floor. I am not a flower arranger. Nor can I look at a room or a stack of cloth to create something beautiful from it. So, does this mean I AM NOT CREATIVE?
No. I think I am creative. I am a real out-of-the box thinker. I am good at looking at situations from a totally different frame. I think most of my clients who have gotten to know me would say that I am very creative in coming up with the right questions to stimulate thinking. I write a blog every week, so I am a pretty creative writer.
My point is this. If I allow others to define “creative”, I just might come out with a really low score. Additionally, if I look at “creative” in a narrow sense, I might hold myself back.
About my second point above, I was reading a fascinating passage in a book talking about the “senses”. If you ask most people “how many senses are there?”, they would probably answer “Five” -sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. Some people might add a sixth sense, intuition. But the consensus is pretty clear at “five”.
Until you stop and think a little more. What about the sense of direction? The sense of balance? Some consider the ability to know the differences in temperature (hot and cold) in our environment (“thermoception”) a sense. A sense of balance is an imperative skills for a gymnast. We all would prefer a taxi (or Uber) driver or a hunting guide with a great sense of direction. The point is that the original consensus need not be right.
When we think about skills, we tend to underestimate the richness of the skill. When we start to look at the senses from a new perspective,we see much more than was originally there.
So what does this have to do with job seeking and careers?
Do we really think deeply about our skills? Probably not. We think through the most apparent ones. More dangerously, we default to the skills we have used the most at work, whether we like to use them or not. Does our familiarity with what we have done put blinders on us?
In job seeking, are we so focused on getting the basics done first – the resume, the LinkedIn profile, the networking meetings – at the expense of this deeper thinking? When you expand your thinking, you realize you have skills you did not originally think about. Or, you remind yourself of skills that just don’t come to mind initially. Maybe there is a latent skill not being used. We have skills not used at “work” but used in other parts of our life. We all have the habit of underestimating ourselves. Don’t do it!
Self reflection is a great way to expand your list of skills. It can be enhanced by talking with another person. When you work with another person, you get the opportunity to benefit from a different perspective. They have a different definition of a particular skill. They might challenge you to look at things a little differently.
Think about it this way. Someone asks you a question about what you are known for or what you are good at. If you have done your preparation, you might have a really great answer. It may make all the difference.