Identifying Your Skills and Strengths in the Workplace

Identify SkillsWhat skills that you acquired in the military are most relevant to the civilian job market? What other skills do you possess which may or may not be related to your work in the military? Do you need to acquire new skills? To best position yourself in the civilian job market, you should identify and refine your present skills as well as achieve new and more marketable skills as necessary for a competitive edge.

Before you can refine your skills or acquire new ones, you need to know what skills you presently possess. Take stock of what you have and what you need for pursuing a civilian career. Most people possess two types of skills that define their accomplishments and strengths as well as enable them to enter and advance within the job market: work-content skills and functional skills.

Work-content or “hard” skills are easy to recognize since they are often identified as qualifications for specific jobs. They tend to be technical and job-specific in nature, such as repairing helicopters, programming computers, or operating an X-ray machine. While these skills do not transfer well from one occupation to another, they are critical for entering and advancing within certain occupations.

Functional or “soft” skills are transferable to numerous job settings and are mainly acquired through experience rather than formal training. These skills are not easily recognized since they tend to be linked to certain personal characteristics (energetic, intelligent, likable) and the ability to deal with processes (communicate, solve problems, motivate). You must first know your functional skills before you can relate them to the job market, but it is more difficult to identify these subjective skills. They are the skills that can be transferred from one job or career to another and are an important bridge in the career transition process.

Use self-assessment exercises to identify both your work-content and functional skills.  The exercises found on Step 3 of Corporate Gray’s Online Transition Guide can help you identify and communicate your qualifications to employers.

To assist you in identifying your work-content skills, collect all the efficiency/performance reports you received while serving in the military. As you read through these reports, think about the responsibilities you held and your accomplishments in each. Ask yourself these questions:

Did you hold any leadership positions? If so, how many people reported to you?
Did you have a budget and, if so, how much was it?
What were the significant skills you developed during that period?
What were your important accomplishments? Can you quantify them?
Can you remember any extraordinary event or accomplishment?
Did you do any volunteer work that might show how you reached out to help others?
Were you ever stationed overseas? If so, did you learn to speak a foreign language?
Are you already bilingual?
Did you work on a college or advanced degree?

Use the Work-Content Skills List to record your skills and accomplishments.

Most functional skills can be classified into two general skills and trait categories: organizational/interpersonal skills and personality/work style traits. Use the Functional Skills Checklist to identify your skills within the two categories. After completing the exercise, review the list and rank order the 10 characteristics that best describe you on each list. This skills vocabulary helps you better identify and translate your military work experience into civilian occupational language.

A job search must begin with identifying your strengths, regardless of what combination of work-content and functional skills you possess. Without knowing your strengths, your job search will lack content and focus. After all, your goal should be to find a job that is a fit for you rather than one you think you might be able to fit into. Of course, you also want to find a job for which there is a demand.

Do not sell yourself short when identifying your skills and strengths. Regardless of which branch you served, you gained valuable experience in many areas. Now your challenge is to identify those skills and communicate them through your resume and in job interviews.

Knowing what you do well is essential for understanding your strengths and linking your capabilities to specific jobs. However, just knowing your abilities and skills is not enough, you also need to know your work values and interests. These are the building blocks for setting goals and targeti9ng your abilities toward certain jobs and careers. Your interests and values will determine whether or not certain skills should play a central role in your job search.

For example, the Administrative Assistant who types 120 words per minute possesses a marketable skill. But if that person doesn’t enjoy using this skill and is more interested in working outdoors, this will not become a motivated skill. This individual will most likely not pursue a typing job.

Your military career transition office will likely offer interest assessment tests, such as the Strong Interest Inventory or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.  In addition, there is also Holland’s “The Self-Directed Search” and the O*Net Interest Profiler to help you find out what your interests are and how they relate to the world of work.

Do You Have the Right Credentials for the Civilian Job You Seek?
Translating Military Experience into Civilian Language – Part 1
Translating Military Experience into Civilian Language – Part 2


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