What kind of skills do you have?

Looking for work?: Tips on how to write about your skill set

Written by Karin Lee July 30 2020

Everyone who’s had at least one job in their life has learned some skills along the way.

What kind of skills do you have?

In a particularly chilling moment in the movie ‘Taken’, Liam Neeson tells his daughter’s kidnappers that he is coming for them, growling into his phone, “I have a particular skill set”. Given his convincing tone of voice (and that it’s a Hollywood film), we have no doubt that he’ll succeed at this task (which he does in a rather spectacular, if over-the-top, style).

But what about your own skill set? Have you thought about what it is?

(In Norwegian they call this ‘kompetanseområde’, which I’ve sometimes seen translated into ‘competence area’ or ‘competencies’. But for creating a CV or LinkedIn profile, I advise writers to describe their skills or skill set).

More than being a ‘team player’

When I ask job seekers this question, they often answer me in rather vague terms about how they’re a ‘team player’ or a ‘self-motivated worker’.

While these are positive character traits, they don’t answer specifically what they can do.

So here are a few ideas as to what is meant by your ‘skill set’. Have you…

  • Created a product?
  • Sold a product?
  • Done research? Written about your research?
  • Made a presentation?
  • Organized an event?
  • Helped a co-worker or customer solve a problem?

Use examples to back up your skill

If you’ve done one or more of the above, use examples to back up your skill. Be as specific as you can to help the reader understand what you’ve accomplished.

Being concrete is best

For example, if you’ve sold a product, how many were sold? If you made a presentation, what was the topic and how many people were in the audience? If you’ve done research and written about it, what was the field and in which publication(s) did it appear?

If these sound like incredibly basic tips to you, let me repeat that the majority of job seekers I help do not think or write in these concrete terms.

Why not? Am not quite sure, but think it goes back to the idea that while we’ve learned a lot at school, nobody’s taught us how to find a job.

It’s not just you

This includes people who are highly educated, so the job search process is just something new they have to learn. Which includes being as clear as possible when writing about what you alone have accomplished/can accomplish on the job.

You’ve got loads of skills – just write about them in a specific way so the reader can understand them and find out what an extremely attractive job candidate you are.

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