Shed saying always room to grow

Careers are deeply personal. Your career journey is not going to look the same as mine. It’s not going to be the same as your colleagues’ or your manager’s trajectories. And it’s not going to be straight up. Careers look like spider webs – up, down, sideways, diagonal. The good news, you’re in control. It’s ultimately up to you to grow your career in the way you want. Yes, it takes a little help from managers, peers, and your professional community, but owning your career and personal brand starts with skills. You need to have the right skills and be proactively building new ones to be better at the role you have now AND to make your next career move. 

The first step

The first step in understanding your skills? Self-evaluation. 

And don’t underestimate (or overestimate) what you’re capable of, especially if you have skills that are either underutilized in your current role or not relevant to it. 

For example, in addition to my current role, I sit on a board of directors for a local humane society. Some of the skills required to do both effectively overlap, but some do not. Fundraising is a good example – I really only use that skill for nonprofit work, but it’s still a skill I have. Be sure to look at yourself holistically. 

You never know when a particular skill will become useful. Things that you build outside of your role, like the volunteering example, may become a differentiating factor when going up for promotion or applying for new opportunities. 

The benefits of assessing your skills

Evaluating your skills can help you understand your current strengths and weaknesses. If you have a particular career goal in mind, mapping what you have to what you might need helps identify the missing skills that will get you there. You can then start building those skills with greater precision and clarity. 

How to get started

So how can you get started? Set aside a dedicated time, maybe once every quarter or six months, to look at your current skills. Write them down or document them digitally. Start with the skills you know you’ve built through your work. Look at recent projects and the skills you used in them. Consider any software or processes that require specific skills. Ask your manager and colleagues to list the skills that they’ve seen you use. 

Then look wider. What do you do outside of work that is building a skill? There are many valuable skills that might not be immediately obvious. If you work out regularly, you’re building resilience. If you do a weekly art class, you’re building your creativity. Volunteering at a community project might build your teamwork skills, while speaking at a school event will develop your public speaking and teaching abilities. 

Everyone has a mix of hard technical skills and power skills (these are often able to transfer from role to role, and are therefore becoming more valuable to employers). When assessing your skills, look at the mix and whether it’s working well for you. Specifically, consider whether your current skills have transferability into other roles or industries. This will give you a bit of a buffer during uncertain times.

Building future skills

After you’ve evaluated your current skills, it’s time to look at your future goals and any skill gaps that may hinder your progress. It’s not comfortable to realize your weaknesses, but it’s vital to growth. Your career is only as strong as your weakest skill. If you have a good relationship with your manager and employer, ask for opportunities to strengthen any skill gaps you identify. Ask a mentor for suggestions. Do a stretch assignment with another team, ask to be the project manager for your next team assignment, or even lead a lunch-and-learn session for your colleagues. 

All your efforts will go to waste if you don’t record them. Unfortunately, a resume can only capture so much. I’d recommend keeping track of all learning and skills via a skills profile. Ideally, you’d want to review this monthly or even weekly to check that your upskilling is on the right track. When you’re ready to make the next career move, you can bring up your skills profile as a clear indicator of the many skills you bring to the table. 

Time to stand out

In the future, there will be many opportunities to stand out through your skills. More employers will move towards skill-based approaches in hiring and talent management. Add a skill section to your resume and online profiles. 

At work, standing out might take the form of opportunity marketplaces (platforms that enable you to move between internal roles and projects or different work styles like permanent to contract). If so, having a well-populated skills profile that you’ve built over many months and years will be a huge selling point for you. It will also help you move more easily between different roles and industries as hiring managers will see, at a glance, that you have the relevant skills needed for their project. 

Even without opportunity marketplaces, you’ll still find many ways to bring up your skills during talent discussions. You might wish to highlight your skills when going for a promotion, for example, or when discussing what work you’d like to focus on in a performance review. Having hard data to back you up, will make it easier to have discussions like remuneration or when to progress in a role. If you decide to switch from a permanent role to freelance or contract, having a ready-made source of evidence of your skills can make the transition a lot more seamless. 

Now is an opportune time to assess your skills. So much is changing in the workplace. We’re contending with the Great Resignation, whether to go back to in-person or hybrid working, and even what the future of work will look like. Make sure your skills — and career — aren’t left behind. The best way to do that is by having a robust skill set and portfolio of your own!