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Regular assessment of your skills is vital for the furthering of your career. As we busy ourselves with work and life, assessing our hard and soft skills might fall by the wayside, but this is an exercise which is essential to qualifying your professional capabilities.
Assessing your skills can help you improve the ones you have identified as in need of development, leveraging the skills you are expert at, and being able to develop and structure your competencies ready to find a career, look for promotions or seek a job change.
This article discusses the different ways to assess your skills and the benefits to development that these methods can offer you.
1. Make a list of your hard and soft skills
Hard skills are specific and tangible competencies that you need to complete a certain job or function in a specific industry. Often referred to as technical skills, hard skills are the result of education and training experience, and can include:
- analytical skills
- budgeting skills
- competency on a certain system or program
- foreign language skills
- IT or software skills
- management skills
- mathematical skills
- negotiation skills
- presentation skills
- writing skills
Hard skills rarely change from one organisation to the next. Therefore, the best way to analyse your hard skills is to review your CV or job history and think about the skills you had in these roles, and rate how far advanced you are in them. This can be a ‘sliding scale’ — such as ‘basic’, ‘intermediate’ and ‘advanced’ — or a numerical scale from 1 to 10. Consider what training course or work you need to put in to move these skills along this scale.
Soft skills, sometimes referred to as transferable skills, are less-tangible qualities that cover elements of your personality, traits and idiosyncrasies. These are more difficult to cleanly assess. Some examples of soft skills could be:
- collaboration skills
- communication skills
- creativity or innovation skills
- interpersonal skills
- leadership skills
- listening skills
- reliability or dependability
Soft skills are better assessed by reviewing progress over time, as well as some other assessment tips covered later in this article. Asking colleagues or managers about your soft skills can help but asking yourself what elements of each soft skill you find the easiest and most challenging are also good ways to focus on what to improve. Reflecting on real-life situations, and thinking about what went well and what didn’t, is another great way to assess soft skills.
2. Use your job description
The job description for your role will contain a list of skills and traits needed for you to perform your job effectively. Although you will certainly be aware of which skills you are using in your role, a detailed analysis of your job description will help you understand if you’re lacking any skills or abilities, as well as possible ways to leverage the areas you are best at.
Alternatively, you might look at the job description and see that you’re matching the requirements and using other skills not listed, or that you have skills which are being underutilised. This might lead you to consider if you need to change careers, aim for a promotion or reapply your expertise in a different way.
3. Dive into your past performance reviews
Did you keep your past performance reviews? If so, dig them out (you might also find them buried in your emails!).
Past performance reviews are a great way to assess your hard and soft skills, especially over time. Performance reviews are completed annually at the very least, and will often guide the employee through competencies, covering for each one what is going well, and development required.
Analysing performance reviews can show how your skills are evolving. You might notice patterns, such as your managers’ opinions of your skillset improving over time, or some skills being focused on and others being side-lined. This information can be used to determine your focus areas going forward.
If completed thoroughly, performance reviews will also give people steps and tips to improve their skills, as well as training or courses needed to enhance skills. These can be used to create personal development plans aligned to your professional growth.
4. Use an aptitude test
Aptitude tests are assessments developed to specifically assess your job skills. There are many different tests on the market which you can choose from and will test you on different areas such as numeracy, logic and so on, before making job or career recommendations based on what you’re good at and what you might need to develop on.
Aptitude tests often cost money to complete or subscribe to, but they can be very useful. Seeing as many large companies use similar testing programmes in their selection processes, gaining experience in completing them, as well as gaining an understanding of your strengths and development areas, will ensure you’re well placed for applying online when the time comes.
Our very own career test, CareerHunter, might be worth looking into. Full access to CareerHunter costs just $29.99 and comprises a series of six assessments: career interests, work personality, career motivation, and abstract, numerical and verbal reasoning abilities. Once you complete all six assessments, your responses are analysed against a large section of career paths and are generated into a detailed report outlining career recommendations, job suggestions and an evaluation of your test results.
5. Ask other people for feedback
One of the easiest ways to assess your skills is to ask other people what they think of them. The 360-degree feedback technique is a useful tool to gain many different feedback perspectives. Managers and supervisors might be well-placed to discuss your skills, but your colleagues will also be able to provide valuable input. You can also seek feedback from close friends and family (be wary of bias). External influencers, such as customers or suppliers, could be willing to share their thoughts on how you’re doing, too.
A word to the wise: 360-degree feedback is best solicited using clear direction. Provide the respondents with a matrix, including your job competencies or job description, or a list of your hard and soft skills. Provide a quantitative rating scale, and ask them to assess each skill, asking them to explain what they think you could do to improve in each area.
6. Check job adverts in your field
Checking job adverts is a useful way to assess your skills, as this will give you a candid viewpoint into what companies are looking for in terms of both hard and soft skills.
Look up job vacancies which are aligned to either your current role or the role you want to move into next (using roles in the same industry or geographical setting will make this exercise as accurate as possible). Write down the skills the employer is listing as required and desirable, and crosscheck these against your own capability.
This exercise will give you very clear development objectives, ones which are directly aligned to your career aspirations.
Effective assessment of skills can be an honest and humbling experience. If you’re asking others what they think of your skillset, you’re not always going to like the answer. Similarly, self-assessment of your skills is challenging, and you need to be critical of yourself. These are often hard pills to swallow but are important steps in professional growth.
Because getting feedback on your skills is hard to do (as is self-assessment), many people do not focus on such activities. However, if you take the time to focus on assessing your skills and acting upon the discoveries you make, you’ll discover a sure-fire way of maximising professional development and leveraging your skills to meaningfully drive your career forward.
Join the conversation! Got a question, or want to share your own tips on how to assess your skills? Let us know in the comments section below!
This article is an update of an earlier version published on 16 May 2017.