Creative Job Search
On-line Job Search Guide

Previous Section Table of Contents Next Section
Beaded Line

Skills Identification

Looking for work is selling a product. A successful job search is a sales and marketing campaign. The most effective job seekers use sales techniques in their job search to set themselves apart from the competition. The sooner you apply sales strategies to your job search the sooner you will begin to see results in your search for employment. To successfully sell a product a salesperson must first know exactly what that product can do. The same is true for your job search. Employers do not just want to know where you have been and what your job titles were. They want to know what you can do. If you were looking to purchase a product that would cost you thousands of dollars annually you too would want to know what it can do.

Consider a major purchase you made or are planning to make: a car, appliances, a computer or stereo equipment. If you are a smart consumer you will shop around. You ask questions. You want to know exactly what each product can do and what sets it apart from the competition. It is the salesperson's job to convince you that their product is the best. If they are unfamiliar with the product, or are not sold on the product themselves, there is little hope they will be able to sell you. This is why salespeople spend many hours learning their products. This is also why you need to invest time in identifying your skills.

Skills are the performance specifications of your product - you.

The average person has between 500 and 800 skills! You need to identify those skills that are the most attractive to potential employers. Many people have a hard time identifying their skills, because we often define skills too narrowly. Do not think of a skill as something that requires years of formal education and experience to develop. A skill is anything you can do right now!

Job Skills

Job skills are those skills specific to a job or occupation. A secretary, for example, might be skilled in typing, word processing, filing, answering telephones and company correspondence. An accountant might list accounts receivable, accounts payable, payroll, taxes, using a 10-key and computer accounting programs. A salesperson might include customer service, record keeping, order processing, inventory management, billing and product displays. Ultimately, job skills need to be stated in specific terms. For example, computer skills should be identified by the specific programs used.

Job skills are important to employers for obvious reasons. They are the specific skills employers look for in a candidate. Job skills do not always come from employment. You may have also developed job skills through education, hobbies, community activities and life experiences.

Self-Management Skills

These are skills you use day to day to get along with others or to survive. They are the skills that make you unique. Sincerity, reliability, tactfulness, patience, flexibility, timeliness, or tolerance are all examples of self-management skills. Employers look for these skills to determine how a candidate will fit into the organization. How a person will "fit in" is an important consideration for employers.

Transferable Skills

Many skills can transfer from one job or occupation to another. For most job seekers it is very unlikely they will find a job that is identical to their previous employment. Therefore, it is critical for a successful job seeker to carefully evaluate how their skills transfer into other opportunities.


Many people have trouble distinguishing between their duties and skills. Duties are the basic functions of an activity, while skills are the tools to accomplish those functions. Duties or functions are a part of any organized activity whether it is employment, volunteer work or hobbies.

A simple example is the management of a lemonade stand. The basic duties might include production, marketing, distribution and financial management. There are many skills needed to accomplish these functions, including: mixing, measuring, planning, sales, customer service, writing, cash handling, record keeping, maintenance, dependability, accuracy and motivation. This list of skills could go on and on.

Writing out the duties or functions of an activity first can be a useful way to begin identifying skills. When presenting your skills to an employer it is best to tie them to specific activities.


An effective salesperson will not only describe the specifications of a product; they will promote its performance. They will also note examples of success and customer satisfaction. Your accomplishments are your record of success. Along with where and when, employers want to know how you used those skills. They want to hear how you excelled in your performance. Accomplishments can be the edge that sets you apart from the competition.

Beaded Line
Previous Section Table of Contents Next Section
Pen Graphic Send comments or questions to:

This page was last updated on April 17, 1997
How to order Creative Job Search Materials

Copyright © 1996, 1997 by Minnesota Department of Economic Security