Identifying Your Marketable Skills

by Judy Kaplan Baron, Master Career Counselor

It’s almost impossible to identify what you want to do or to succeed in an interview without identifying your marketable skills.  Yet, many people have no idea what their skills are.  In a nutshell, skills are those activities that you do well.  They can be innate, learned and/or developed.  In his book, “What Color Is Your Parachute?,” Richard Nelson Bolles describes three kinds of skills we all have.   As you read on, you’ll gain increased understanding of what skills you have to offer a prospective employer.

These are skills which can be utilized in a wide variety of different occupations.  They are generic in their usability.  Most often, you have some innate ability with these skills which has been developed and/or refined through educational, vocational or personal experiences. 
Some functional/transferable skills include:
communication skills: public speaking, listening, explaining, negotiating, writing, selling; organizational skills: planning, organizing, prioritizing, following-through, goal-setting; working with numbers: budgeting, compiling, computing, analyzing statistical data; problem-solving; creativity; managing; leading; coordinating; physical dexterity or strength, etc.
2) SELF-MANAGEMENT OR ADAPTIVE.  These are often considered personality characteristics, but are definitely skills which enable success in particular career choices. 
Here are some examples:
initiative, risk-taking, resourcefulness, ability to work independently, a good team-player, flexibility, assertiveness, gregarious, determination, working well under stress, dealing effectively with ambiguity, etc. 
These skills deal with the specific jargon or procedures of a particular occupation.  For example, the work content skills of an architect might include: knowledge of building materials and building codes, how to specify drawings, and governmental permit processes.  A nurse’s work-content skills would include knowledge of medications and their side-effects, emergency procedures, charting processes, utilization of special equipment, etc.
Below are five strategies to help identify skills which are necessary in a particular occupation.
(1) Talk with people currently working in the occupation, 
(2) Scan through online resumes of people who are seeking positions in the career and who are experienced.  Notice the skills listed. 
(3) Turn to classified ads either online or in print.  Look for the key words which are used. 
(4) Look through job descriptions and identify the key words listed.
(5) Help is also available through a variety of career development books, many of which offer lists of skills to help you brainstorm your own personal list.
Once you’ve identified a personal list of marketable skills, you still have another step to take before being able to communicate them convincingly.  Identify specific experiences in your history which prove or demonstrate the skills.  When talking with prospective employers, describe your skills along with specific examples which prove them.  Doing so will help your interview process immensely.
Individualized career counseling and coaching is available from Judy Kaplan Baron.  For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact her at (858) 558-7400 or email at