Skills. Was ever there a more misunderstood subject, or a more misunderstood word?
It has been so, for ages: people "putting down" other people by saying, "They have no skills." People putting down themselves, by saying, "I have no skills."
Let us stand in front of the mirror, and say it loud and clear: "Everyone has skills. Everyone has skills." Dozens. Hundreds.
I used to teach a two week workshop every summer, did that for over 25 years, attended by people from around the world, poor, rich, young, old, schooled and unschooled, and no one – no one – has ever failed to have at least 250 skills. The only question is: which kind, and what are they?
We are all born gifted, we are all born 'skilled.' Watch a baby learn, digest information, and put it to use. The skills every child has are astounding!
What, then, are these skills? What do we have, to offer to the world?
Basically there are three kinds of skills that you have, and I have, to offer to the world. It is useful to think of them in three categories: verbs, nouns, and adjectives.
Some of your skills are verbs, or can be made into verbs, ending in "-ing"
Like: healing, sewing, constructing, driving, communicating, persuading, motivating, negotiating, calculating, organizing, planning, memorizing, researching, synthesizing, etc.
These are your Transferable (Functional) Skills. They are also called talents, gifts, and 'natural skills.'
They are the strengths you have, often from birth.
Some people, for example, are born knowing how to negotiate; but if you weren't, you often can learn how to do it as you grow. So, some of these skills are 'acquired.' You rarely ever lose these skills.
They are called your Transferable Skills because they can be transferred from one occupation to another, and used in a variety of fields, no matter how often you change careers. These skills are things you are good at doing with one of three universes: either people, or things or data/information/ ideas.
Most of us lean toward preferring work that is primarily with one of those universes: either people, or data, or things. And why? Because that's where our best skills lie, that is, the skills we most love to use.
You were born gifted: you are good at working with either data, or things, or people.
That's the first thing you have, to offer to the world.
And then, some of your skills are nouns. Like: computers, English, antiques, flowers, colors, fashion, Microsoft Word, music, farm equipment, data, graphics, Asia, Japanese, the stock market, etc.
These are called your Work Subject Skills, or Knowledge Skills. They are subjects that you know something about, and love to use in your work.
They knowledges are stored in your brain – which you may think of as a vast filing cabinet, at your command. They are often called 'your expertises.'
You have learned these subjects, over the years. Through apprenticeships (formal or informal), school, life experience, books, or from a mentor. It doesn't matter how you learned them; you did. Question is: which ones do you absolutely love to use?
These expertises are the second thing you have, to offer to the world.
And then there are the third kind of skills, those that are adjectives or adverbs.
Like: accurate, adaptable, creative, dependable, flexible, methodical, persistent, punctual, responsible, self-reliant, tactful, courteous, kind, etc.
You know, of course, these are your Personal Trait Skills. Traits are the ways you manage yourself, the way you discipline yourself. Hence, they become the style in which go about doing your transferable skills. Often these are hammered out, in the crucible of experience.
We speak of our traits, in everyday conversation, as though they floated freely in the air: "I am quick, I am methodical, I am very intuitive. I am woman, I am man." But in actuality traits are always attached to your transferable skills, as adjectives or adverbs.
For example, if your favorite transferable skill is "researching," then your traits describe or modify how you do your "researching." Perhaps: methodically. Perhaps: intuitively.
Or perhaps: quickly. And so forth.
These styles, these self-disciplines, are the third thing you have, to offer to the world.
Nouns. Verbs. Adjectives (or adverbs). Having any one of them does not make you unique. No. It is how you combine these three kinds of skills, that makes you unique.
It is important then, that you figure out what kinds of jobs need the transferable skills, and the knowledges, and the traits that you most like to use. After all, you were born because the world needs what you uniquely have to offer.
Q. "I am handicapped. Do you have any special advice about a career for someone like me?
A. Well, yes, I certainly do. Based on over 40 years of working with people who are, or feel they are, handicapped. . Let's begin with some simple truths.
Our culture calls some people 'handicapped,' as though the rest of us were Omni-competent. We are not.
Were all the skills in the world put on one checklist, and submitted to each of us, there would be tons of unchecked skills on everybody's sheet!
That's because all of us have abilities (things we can do) and 'disabilities' (things we cannot do). In that sense, everyone of us is 'handicapped.'
To be sure, not all 'handicaps' are created equal. Things some of us cannot do are merely "interesting," or "challenging," while things others cannot do are so basic to life that we are moved to tears when we see anyone live a triumphant life with that handicap - without whining or complaint.
Degree of handicap may indeed vary widely. But everyone of us is both 'abled,' and 'disabled.'
Normally, those of us who are not labeled as 'handicapped' in our culture, don't go out of our way to call a stranger's attention to the things that we can't do.
For example, in my case, I can't compose music, I'm not good at athletics, and I'm a disaster at accounting. But these are not the first things I think to mention, when I meet a stranger.
What I do mention, when asked about myself, is that I'm good at writing, designing, and teaching others how to make their life really work. I tell them what I can do.
That's normal. But then we turn around, as a culture, and tell certain people to think of themselves as 'handicapped,' which of course draws everyone's attention, first and foremost, to what they can't do.
So, the special advice I give to anyone dealing with what the world calls a 'handicap' is this: Forget what you can't do, and put all your energy into learning to describe what you can do. Then choose a career, based on that.
Don't just look up your handicap (by name) on the Internet. You're not likely to find much that will help you find a job. Instead, go to a meta-search engine like Indeed or Google, and type in the name of the 'skills you have and want to use. You will also find help with this, at the government site O*NET, although their skill sets deal more with knowledges, and what you might call "I have learned how to" instead of basic "I was born with this skill." O*NET's titles: Social Skills, Basic Skills, Complex Problem Solving Skills, Resource Management Skills, Systems Skills, and Technical Skills. ( http://www.onetonline.org/skills/ )
The STEP AHEAD program for ex-offenders has a very good workbook that is actually helpful to people with any handicap. ( http://www.iseek.org/exoffenders/ )
There are tools also for starting with particular fields or industries, finding a job you like within that field, and then the skills, tasks, or working conditions you must be able to handle in that job. Minnesota's iSeek program is particularly helpful with this. It also lists other careers that use those same skills. ( https://www.iseek.org/careers/occupational-skills.html, and https://www.iseek.org/careers/careersSearch# )