Taking Stock

hand writing skills and strengths

Knowing the skills and strengths you bring to each of your jobs is more than just about having answers to the interview questions about them. That knowledge can also point you towards jobs that are a better fit for you, and also help you to write really excellent resumes and cover letters when you’re applying for them.

In a perfect world, every working person would be doing inventories of both skills and strengths on an ongoing basis. When embarking on an active job search, it’s essential.

Skills and Strengths

For our purposes, let’s define skills as things that have to be learned. Nobody is born skilled at much of anything, except eating, crying, and, well … filling diapers. We first learn basic, and in time more advanced skills as we go through school, and later we learn more complex and specialized skills on the job.

We’ll define strengths, on the other hand, as attributes or abilities you have that you may not have been taught. You developed them over time, and some of them are useful to you in the workplace. It’s not that someone can’t learn to be stronger at something that they weren’t, but often strengths feel like they come naturally to us.

In some areas the distinction is less clear-cut (elements of our ability to communicate, for example, may be either or both). There’s also some connections between them; strengths can act in a ‘supporting role’ to the skills that we have, making it easier for us to work at a higher skill level than others who don’t have the same strengths.

Taking Inventory

To begin forming your skills inventory, think about all the work-related things you can do and have done. These could be things you learned to do in school, or things you’ve learned to do while working. The more specific you can be, the better.

For your strengths inventory, it sometimes helps to start by thinking about your newly-inventoried skills. You may have personal attributes that help you develop those skills and put them to use better than the average person. Being highly detail-oriented, for example, is a strength that can ‘power up’ many technical skills.

Around this time, I highly recommend getting in touch with a few former supervisors or colleagues that you had good working relationships with – people you liked, respected and trusted. Sometimes other people see other (or different) things in us than we see ourselves; you might be surprised by what you hear. Explain what you’re doing, and give them some examples of the skills and strengths you’ve already identified. Ask them whether they would agree with the ones on your list, then ask them if there are others that you should consider developing further.

Once you’ve got a longer list – say a dozen or so – of each, pick several skills and strengths that you believe are the most important for you to highlight. These could be ones where you truly stand apart from the crowd, or the ones that are most useful and relevant to the work you do.


At this point, take some time for reflection on the skills and strengths you’ve shortlisted, and make notes. How are you better or different than most people at that skill? How do you get to exercise or show these skills and strengths in your work? How do they benefit you and the company you work for? Are there strengths or attributes you have that have allowed you to uniquely develop your skills, or put them to use in a more effective way?

Taking stock of your skills and strengths, and truly understanding their value, is an essential building block to a successful job search. Knowing what you have to offer will help you showcase that in your applications, and in your interviews. What’s in your inventory?



Photo by Adolfo Félix on Unsplash