Defining Skills

One of the most important factors in applying a skills based approach is properly identifying and assigning the right skills, so there are necessary attributes regarding the nomenclature of skills. First, skills must be defined based on what is commonly accepted across industries, services, and disciplines. Anyone reviewing your skill set, whether it is someone browsing your professional website, a recruiter searching through your skill set, or a career counselor helping you with career planning, must understand the precise meaning of each skill. Moreover, skills must work with your career progression so they have longevity. Second, somewhat related to the first point, there must be some way to handle skills that seem to have the same definition. For example, I am not sure of the difference between “web development” and “web design” – this is something I have run into a few times. Third, there should be some delineation between transferable skills and technical skills. You and your audience need to understand whether your skills are transferable across different disciplines or are specialized. As we discussed in the last two blogs, there are these “traditional” and “emerging” transferable skills that you will have to rely on as you adapt to rapid changes in technology, media, and demographics during your career.

Ideally, this hypothetical organization publishes a universal list of skills with their definitions, categories, and sub skills and this list is accessible to educational institutions, companies, and organizations. Everyone benefits from a standardized list of skills. The main purpose would be to make the definition and categorization of skills uniform across all platforms:       

  • Professional websites – individuals present and validate their skills on a website
  • Career counseling offices – counselors suggest skills for career plans
  • LinkedIn Recruiter service – recruiters search on skills to target candidates
  • MonsterJobs and Career Builder – employers search on skills to retrieve resumes

Furthermore, this hypothetical organization defines and categorizes new skills and sub-skills and tracks their demand; government, educators, and businesses can plan better by knowing the current and forecasted demand for particular skills. LinkedIn currently tracks the growth from year to year of skills and this is a good start. Following the demand for skills might be more effective than following the demand for careers because skills are becoming increasingly transferable across careers and disciplines. Professionals can develop their skill set and then leverage it to find careers. Of course, this hypothetical organization does not exist so we are going to build our own skill list.

Search engines built for targeting skills sets are somewhat messy; transferable skills are mixed with technical skills and programming languages, technologies, and sometimes even job titles, so it is difficult to use. I suggest creating a skill record in the following way (and this is how it is done with a professional website):

Defining Skills

Defining Skills

This brings clarity to the idea of establishing a skill set; a potential employer can understand your transferable skills, technical skills, and precisely what technologies you have experience with.

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