Knowing Your Skills and Backing Them Up

Knowing Your Skills and Backing Them Up

To be able to accurately assess what’s in your toolbox, you have to be able to recognize the value of what’s in there. This is the first step toward knowing what you already have that you can reuse, and what you don’t have that you’re going to need.

Start by simply making a list of job functions you’ve performed over your career. If you have an up-to-date résumé, this will be easy. If you don’t, pull out the job descriptions from your last few positions and use them to make a list. Alongside each job function, list the skills you used to perform them.

Let’s look at an example:

Job Function
Skills Used
Negotiate contracts with sales agents
Sales, negotiation, business development, contract
Oversee sales agents in foreign countries
Client relationship management, foreign language
proficiency, cross-cultural ability
Train sales agents in company products
Writing, public speaking, teaching
Assist foreign sales agents in localizing and launching company products
Product development, marketing
Act as primary point person between sales agents and the company’s internal departments
Internal and external relationship building,
communications, leadership, advocacy

Job functions and skills are important, but they’re not enough for building the legitimacy points you need. Job functions merely say that you did something, and it’s not enough to announce that you’ve got the goods.

You have to show that your skills and talents have delivered tangible, meaningful results, and you do that through listing your accomplishments. From a reinvention perspective, accomplishments are crucial for showing that you have a history of getting results. But those results must be meaningful to your target.

I cannot stress how important relevant accomplishments are. If you don’t have them, you won’t be able to make a strong case. Tailoring your accomplishments to your target is a crucial component of reinvention. You’ll want to have a minimum of three to five to draw upon in order
to prove a pattern of success.

Many people, eager to dive in and begin reinventing themselves, redo their résumés at this point and begin sending them out. Don’t make this mistake! You don’t yet understand the language spoken in your new career, and you’ll need to translate all your materials so that you’re understood.

To identify your accomplishments, use the “P.A.R.” system:

P is for Problem: Start by identifying the problem you tackled (or the opportunity or challenge).
A is for Action: Figure out the actions you took to solve the problem.
R is for Result: Summarize the result by saying exactly what you accomplished in response to the
problem, opportunity, or challenge. These results go on your list of accomplishments; try for at least three from your most recent position.

Also, keep in mind that each accomplishment should fit at least one of the following criteria:

Specific: “Developed a new fragrance for the tween market”; “Set up Brazilian subsidiary”;
Identifiable: “Published articles on health and fitness in O Magazine, Yoga Journal, and Shape”;
Quantifiable: “Raised $1 million in new donor funds in 2004”; “Reduced expenses by 20 percent,
resulting in $500,000 annual savings”

Now you’re ready to take these job functions and accomplishments, and the list of skills it took to do them, and analyze how what you’ve done in the past can be brought to bear on a new career or business.

At this point in your reinvention, you won’t be able to do this at a very deep level. You’ve just come up with a target path, but you haven’t done more intensive research on it, or spoken to a native to flesh out exactly how you’ll be using your tools.

Keep in mind while you’re gathering data, there are three ways of assessing what you’ve done in the past:

1. Direct experience: You have an accomplishment that matches what they’re looking for in your
target career. They want someone who sells copiers, and—that’s right!—you have sold copiers.
2. Similar experience: You have an accomplishment that comes pretty close. They want someone
who sells copiers, and you have sold personal computers. Both of them are types of office
equipment and the customer is the same.
3. Causational skills: You don’t have a direct or similar accomplishment, but you can make the case that your skills will produce the desired result anyway. They want someone who sells copiers, and you have sold your services as a consultant. You’d make the case that your sales skills are transferable.

Sometimes you get lucky—you realize that you have direct experience relevant to a new career. For the most part, though, career reinvention relies on similar experience and causational skills.

A final point: In addition to having meaningful accomplishments, you’ll want to demonstrate with an example from past experience that you know how to get up to speed quickly. There is always tension between an employer’s desire to see a candidate hit the ground running and the reality that the candidate faces a steep learning curve. This is why employers tend to favor those with direct experience: less time spent on the learning curve.

Coaching Action Steps

Make a list of your previous job duties and break them down into a list of the skills it took to perform them.

Then make a list of your accomplishments, along with the skills it took to accomplish them.

Don’t try to skate through this by looking only at what you did in the past year or two. Take the time to come up with a complete list. The stronger and more complete your list of relevant accomplishments, the more legitimacy points you’ll have for making your case, because you’ll have a deeper well from which to draw. Dive deep to find any you may have forgotten.

Watch Out for . . . The gap between the tools you have and the new ones you’ll need.

Something to Think About: What do I see when I look inside my toolbox? Am I willing to do what it takes to polish the old tools and get the new ones I need?

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