Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Exercise: Skills Inventory

The marvel of this list is 2-fold: it’s a great way to view your strengths on a day when you’re not sure you can do more than tie your own shoes (badly); it’s a terrific list out of which to create a personal development plan or understand the pro/cons for you when considering a job change.

It’s tempting to rush this inventory exercise by doing it only once (vs. making it a living document) or taking short cuts such as bundling skills under one skill name. Take your time and update it every few months.

• First, make a list of all the skills you have in excruciating detail. Ask yourself ‘what does that word mean’ and if it breaks down into several smaller skills - list those.
• Don’t just list what you love or what you’re good at. List what you’re capable of.
• Ask people you trust to contribute to the list.
• Don’t edit skills by what you like/don’t like doing. I don’t want to be known as a ‘project manager’ anymore since I moved my career over. However, it’s still something I do very well. It goes on my list.

Once you’ve got a comprehensive list (to which you can continue to add at any time), move the skills on to a 4-square grid.

Top left:
- take these skills to the bank - am in the top % here.
No false modesty - these are the skills you use to sell yourself as unique/amazing. They make up your personal brand.

Bottom left:
Solid skills
- table stakes - we all do these

Bottom right:
Skills I could use more training on
- you can do them but we wouldn’t go out of our way to ask you

Top right:
Skills for which I want some/more training
- not what your manager wants - what YOU want

Top right is my favourite square. Identifying existing languishing skills you wish to beef up, pinpoints your interests for either enhancing your current job or helping you select your next challenge. It’s also a great list to figure out where you might want some coaching from your peers or long-term planning with your mentor. You can, with this ¼ of the grid, also add skills you don’t even have yet for the same planning purposes.

I also divide my original list in two pieces - skills I have that I love doing; skills I have that I do because I must. Facilitating falls in the former; updating spreadsheets falls in the latter.

Where I’ve really found this list and the grid useful (if I keep it up-to-date), is helping me not simply jump at new opportunities but approach them strategically. Does this project/job/opportunity help me dive into something on top right part of my grid? Does it simply showcase my existing skills across the left? Does it lean too heavily on the things I don’t enjoy doing (even if I do them very well)?

The list and grid have many applications - but the trick is to make one at all!

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