The world has taken a powerful pause. Within this time, it is important for individuals to stop and assess their current situation, while preparing for the near future. When it comes to our career, keeping track of skills we acquired as well as skills we need to improve is even more important because change is happening faster than ever.
Early in my career, I developed a habit of tracking my skills with something I called a “Skills Inventory.” It didn’t take much time at all to take stock of my expertise, especially when I was simply adding new items to this list. I’ve since shared this practice with many students, graduates and seasoned professionals I either coach or mentor to help with their own career development and planning. Those starting their careers like it as a tool to support their career development, while more experienced professionals like to use it to identify skills that served them well.
This Skills Inventory started off as a simple table containing 3 things:
Soon, I realized that company names and titles didn’t matter in this activity. What was more important was context – the function and environment in which we apply these skills. For example, titles like “Adamantium-Certified SAP Consultant” (this certification does not exist and is only made-up) can inflate expectations and even distract us from the purpose of this activity. Instead roles like cashier or stockbroker can quickly help you put into context what “money management” means.
I added “Level” to my inventory to gauge and track my skills proficiency. This element helped me realize that the Skills Inventory wasn’t just a list of past and currently acquired skills, but can be a tool to help me set goals and track my progress towards these learning goals. I started playing around with different measures:
- Scale: 0-10
- Years experience: 0-1; 1-3; 3-5; >10
- Proficiency descriptors: Beginner; Intermediate; Expert
What I finally landed on was more subjective, and therefore more meaningful for myself:
- Not satisfied; Satisfied
Next, I began to see that I can add skills (or even add roles) to the list without needing to define any other corresponding information as a way to set a goal. For example, you might see that more business correspondences are taking place in Zoom or Skype. This trend means establishing a virtual audio-visual presence will be an important skill for you to add to your list. At the same time, just because I’m “satisfied” with the level of my skill, it doesn’t mean I stop developing that skill. We need to continue to learn and “sharpen our saw” as Stephen Covey says.
Sometimes people ask, “Is keeping a mental list good enough?” Not for me. After almost 30 years of moving from notebook, to floppy disks, to flash drive, to cloud, my list has become too long to commit to memory (let alone my cluttered and aged brain). Plus, adding action to thought is a powerful step we shouldn’t skip.
Do you have a “Skills Inventory” yet? Here are a couple more personal tips before you go and update or start your list:
- How you do your job is more important than what you do. In my previous blog post about uncovering hidden talents, I encouraged focusing on your process and action rather than your title. Skills like planning and building tell a lot more about your talents, and is more transferable than say, carpenter.
- Be specific and focus on applied skills. Rather than general terms like “emotional intelligence” or “leadership,” use more specific action-oriented terms such as “active listening” or “fundraising.”
- Make it a habit. Once you’ve determined this tool brings you value by being helpful to you, then you will need to figure out how to use it regularly. Perhaps share it/part of it with your boss, and make it your go-to reference for professional development discussions. Open it up at set events or occasions like on Thanksgiving. Continuing to add and to update the document is what gives it value.
Did I miss anything? What other tips can you share?
Check out more blog posts in this series: Coach’s Corner.