Career Development

How To Develop Your Skill Set To Advance Your Career

February 11, 2021

Developing your skill set can help you secure your first job, earn a promotion or become a better employee. You can use your skill set in your current industry or use it to change careers. In this article, we discuss what a skill set is and how to identify, develop and promote yours.

What is a skill set?

A skill set is a collection of abilities that help you perform professional and personal tasks. The skills in a skill set typically complement one another to help you succeed.

Skill sets usually comprise a combination of hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are teachable skills. They are sometimes called technical skills. You can learn hard skills at school or university or on the job. Some hard skills include:

  • Accounting
  • Computer programming
  • Copywriting
  • Plastering
  • Cooking

Soft skills are natural talents. However, practise can help you refine these skills. Some soft skills include:

  • Organisation
  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Persuasion
  • Time management

You can further divide the skills in a skill set into the following categories:

  • Hybrid skills: These are complex skills that incorporate hard and soft skills. Customer service is an example of a hybrid skill. It incorporates hard skills, such as using a customer management system or database, with soft skills, including communication and conflict resolution.
  • Transferable skills: These are skills that transfer to any job or industry. Communication is an example of a transferable skill. Employees must communicate with coworkers, customers and other people in almost every job.
  • Job-specific skills: These are the skills required for a certain role, and may be hard or soft skills. For example, familiarity with electronic medical records is a job-specific skill for a medical receptionist.

Everyone has a different skill set, which develops over time. Your natural talents and interests, education and career choices influence your skill set. Developing your skills can help you achieve your professional goals.

How to identify your skill set

Identifying your skill set can help you decide which jobs you are most suited to. It can also inspire you to change careers and pursue another path. Understanding your skills also prepares you for performance reviews. Take the following steps to identify your skill set:

  1. Consider what you enjoy
  2. Think about what people recognise you for
  3. Recall your childhood
  4. Consider your accomplishments

1. Consider what you enjoy

People usually gravitate towards hobbies that come easily to them. These are pastimes that use your natural skill sets and often require using skills that can transfer to the workforce. For example, if you enjoy completing jigsaw puzzles, you probably have good problem-solving and logic skills. You could apply this skill set to a career in engineering.

2. Think about what people recognise you for

People who know you often recognise skills you do not see or appreciate in yourself. That is because they can view you more objectively than you view yourself. Think about whether your loved ones or colleagues praise your skills. Consider whether your coworkers may ask you to teach them your skills. For example, if people often say you deliver speeches well, communication is a skill in your skill set.

3. Recall your childhood

As many skills are natural, recalling childhood can help you identify more abilities. Considering the parts of your skill set you do not use today can help you get a complete picture of your skills.

Think about the classes you enjoyed in school and how you spent your afternoons and weekends. Perhaps you performed well in maths and enjoyed playing netball. These memories suggest your skill set includes logic, problem-solving and athletic skills. Consider whether you were part of a large social group or preferred spending time alone. These memories may suggest whether teamwork or self-starting is in your skill set.

4. Consider your accomplishments

Your skills probably helped you achieve your successes. Think about the awards you have won, clients you secured and projects you successfully managed, then consider the skills that helped you succeed. For example, if you won an award for exceeding a sales target, you probably have strong communication and persuasion skills.

How to develop your skill set

Although you are born with natural skills, you can refine them over time. You can also add skills to your skill set to become a more well-rounded and valuable employee. Follow these steps to develop your professional skill set:

  1. Set professional goals
  2. Work with a mentor
  3. Review postings for jobs you want
  4. Ask people for feedback
  5. Enrol in online study
  6. Volunteer for company training
  7. Take part in industry workshops
  8. Shadow other professionals
  9. Join relevant industry groups

1. Set professional goals

Decide what skills you want to work on and what you hope those skills help you achieve. These goals should be SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. SMART goal-setting can motivate you and provide a framework for success. Once you know your goals, make plans to achieve them.

2. Work with a mentor

Find a mentor in your field you trust and respect. Ask them to share their skills with you. They may have unique skills or better ways of completing tasks than you do. You can benefit from their experience and knowledge.

3. Review postings for jobs you want

Check the job postings for careers that aspire you. These postings often list the skills required to excel in these roles. Acquire any skills you lack and develop existing skills to boost your chances of advancement.

4. Ask people for feedback

Your colleagues, managers, customers and loved ones all have thoughts about you. Encourage them to share their feedback about your strengths and weaknesses. You can then promote your strengths and improve your skill sets.

5. Enrol in online study

Studying online allows you to learn new skills and develop existing ones in the comfort of your own home. Many universities, Technical and Further Education (TAFE) colleges and training centres have online study programs. You can take their classes in your own time, so they are ideal for full-time employees. Some employers may even give you time off or reimburse some or all your fees.

Some universities, TAFE colleges and training centres offer special skill set courses. These courses teach students a selection of complementary skills for their careers and are shorter than certificates and degrees. You could complete a skill set if you want specific job-related skills.

6. Volunteer for company training

Many companies regularly run training programs to develop their employees' skills. Volunteer for any training programs advertised within your organisation. Deepening and expanding your skill set can benefit you now and in the future.

7. Take part in industry workshops

Participating in industry workshops lets you develop your skills through hands-on learning. Your employer, union or professional association can update you on local workshops.

8. Shadow other professionals

Shadowing is a common practice for new employees. However, if you have time, you can benefit from shadowing others at any stage in your career. During quiet periods, ask your supervisor if you can shadow them or another employee. This practice expands your skills and deepens your understanding of the business.

9. Join relevant industry groups

Industry associations and unions bring professionals together from across the country. Your membership can develop your skill set in many ways. These groups regularly host networking and education events. These events can teach you skills for your career and introduce you to others you can learn from.

How to promote your skill set

Promoting your skill set makes sure employers know what you can bring to their business. This helps them learn whether you are the best candidate. Take the following steps to promote your skill set:

1. Note preferred skills on job applications

Review the job posting and note any essential or preferred candidate skills. List your relevant skills on your resume and customised cover letters. Include any qualifications or training credentials that prove your skills.

2. Note relevant skills on job applications

Businesses do not always list every relevant skill in their job postings. Consider the skills you have that would help you do the job well. Make sure you include these skills in your cover letter and resume. This practice shows you understand the role and the industry's needs. Make sure to include any relevant and unique skills other candidates might not have. For example, speaking Mandarin could help you secure work with a company with Chinese clients. Remember to include qualifications that prove these skills.

3. Discuss skills during job interviews

Give answers explaining your skills and how you have applied them. Highlight vital or preferred job skills and any skills in your skill set that can set you apart. Job interviews also let you showcase your public speaking and interpersonal skills. Some questions let you prove other skills, such as logic and problem-solving.

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