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Develop Your Core Skills and Traits

When employers look for workers, they want people with the technical skills for the job. But they also want to know if you have the softer core skills and traits to help the business run smoothly.

You already have some of these qualities. Everyone does. You’ve developed them at home, at school, on the job, or in a volunteer position—basically, throughout your life. Think about which skills and traits you have, how to highlight them on your resumé, and how to develop the ones employers need.

Identify your core skills

The skills you use at work fall under 2 types:

  • Work-specific skills, such as driving a forklift or administering drugs, are technical and tied to a specific job or occupation.
  • Core or transferable skills are broader life skills that you can take from one job or industry to another.

Core skills may start with a natural ability, such as counting things quickly and easily. With training and practice, your ability with numbers can turn into skills like measuring, estimating, and budgeting. You can use these skills in any number of jobs.

You can develop core skills in different areas of your life. For example, if you were  late for your summer job or you were late handing in your school assignment, these are signs that you need to develop your time management skills.

Core skills are grouped into 10 categories:

  • Numerical skills include calculating and budgeting.
  • Communication skills include reading and talking.
  • Leadership skills include making decisions and supervising.
  • Sense Awareness skills include sound or colour discrimination.
  • Using Logical Thinking include problem solving or researching.
  • Helping Skills include serving or counselling.
  • Organizational Skills include managing information or scheduling.
  • Technical Skills include using computers or operating equipment.
  • Self-Management Skills include managing time or stress.
  • Being Creative and Innovative include creating or designing.

Take this skills quiz to figure out which ones you have. A good way to remember these skills and how you have used them is to identify your significant experiences.

Your list of core skills will grow as your career develops. You can store this list in your master resumé so you can easily add your skills to any job application. You’ll want to market these skills and show them off in job interviews.

Identify your traits

Also known as attitudes or characteristics, your traits affect how you approach people, things, or tasks. People can tell what traits you have by the way you behave. And you have the power to change your behaviour to help make your career more successful.

Employers look for workers who are:

  • Careful
  • Dependable
  • Energetic
  • Adaptable
  • Friendly
  • Honest
  • Positive
  • Willing to learn

Take the traits quiz to learn which traits you have. Again, a good way to identify your traits and how they have helped you is to think about important experiences in your life.

Include your traits in your master resumé along with your skills. You can then match them to the traits an employer wants and highlight them in interviews.

How to develop your core skills and traits

Let’s face it—we can’t all be good listeners or flexible workers right from the start. We may not always take the time to make sure we understand what someone is saying. And sometimes we have trouble dealing with change. But these are skills and traits that we can improve.

Discover the core skills and traits that employers want:

  • Explore your desired occupation on alis and explore the “Skills and Traits” section.
  • Examine job ads for keywords that are the same or similar to ones in the skills and traits quizzes.
  • Explore the websites of companies you’d like to work for. Do they describe their values or how they serve their customers and clients? Those descriptions often hint at the core skills and traits they want their workers to have.

Compare your master list of core skills and traits to those you need for the job you want. Are you missing any, or do you need to improve some? Follow these 4 steps for each skill or trait you want to work on:

1.  Set a goal and write it down

Your goal is the thing you want to do. When you create a goal, you should know what it is, why you’re doing it, and when you plan to reach it. In this case, your goal is to develop or improve a skill or trait. That’s the “what.” The “why” and the “when” follow. For example:

I want to become more flexible (answers “what”) because I know I have trouble dealing with change (answers “why”) by May 31 (answers “when”).

2.  Notice how others use their life skills and traits

Watching the way people behave or do something is a great way to learn about life skills and traits. You can observe the people you admire and take note of the way they do things. You can even watch people who do things badly to learn how not to behave.

You can talk to people you know about how they developed the skills and traits you want to improve. If you’re trying to become more flexible, for example, you could ask friends or co-workers who seem to handle change better than you. They may say that they:

  • Know that change is certain
  • Find ways to compromise
  • Recognize they may make a mistake when they try something new
  • Take a deep breath before trying something new as a way to handle stress

Following this advice is a good way to improve your flexibility.

3.  Ask for feedback from people you trust

Choose someone you respect who will give you honest, helpful feedback. This could be a supervisor, co-worker, teacher, mentor, or counsellor. It could also be a close friend or family member. Direct them to the Observers’ Checklist for Traits and Skills.

If you’re at school or in a training program, you could ask several teachers to assess you at the beginning and end of the course. This will let you see how you have improved. Keep in mind that everyone is busy. Give your observers plenty of time to assess you.

The feedback you receive may surprise you. Your observers may rate your skills and traits higher or lower than you would rate yourself. This could mean going back to Step 1 and creating new goals. Ask your observers why they have rated you this way and how they think you can improve. These comments can become a checklist of behaviours for you to practise.

For example, you may think you’re a good listener because you hear everything a person says to you. But if your supervisor or your co-worker says, “I don’t think you pay attention when I speak to you,” ask why. They may say that you need to:

  • Look at them when they talk to you
  • Use body language to show you understand, such as nodding

Following this advice is a good way to improve your listening skills.

4.  Practise, practise, practise

Keep a list of the skills and traits you want to develop or improve on your phone or somewhere handy so you can check daily on how you’re doing. Record the ways you are learning to use your new skills and traits. These are concrete examples you can use in your resumé or a job interview.

Practise speaking about your skills and traits. Share those you think you’re good at as well as those you’re developing with someone you trust. Meet over coffee, arrange for a walk, or find a quiet time after dinner to chat.

For example, you might talk about how you have always seen yourself as someone who is reliable or a good time manager, and give examples. If you are trying to improve, explain how you’re working on becoming better organized or more positive. This is a good way to get feedback and prepare for a job interview.

Appreciate your skills in daily life

Remember that you use your skills and traits every day, whether you’re at home, out with your friends, in school, or at work. Take the time to observe them, record them, and practise them. Once people recognize your positive skills and traits, they may start turning to you for advice!

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