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Figure out your skills

Being able to identify all the skills you have can open you up to more career options. It can also help you work out if you have any skill or knowledge gaps that can be addressed with further training.

What are skills?

A skill is the ability to do something. We are not born with skills, we learn them as we go along - through the life and work experiences that we have. 

A skill can be simple, such as tying a knot, or more complex, such as composing a waiata. They may have been developed through work, study or training, recreational and community activities, or in the home.

Skill areas include:

  • Constructing - building, making, assembling, manufacturing things or materials
  • Creating - inventing, originating, designing or composing
  • Creative writing - writing articles, stories or lyrics to inform or entertain
  • Calculating - using maths to solve problems
  • Investigating - researching, studying, questioning for information
  • Problem solving- looking at problems from different points of view and exploring possible solutions
  • Decision making - weighing up options and making a choice
  • Budgeting - managing money, budgets or finances
  • Planning- predicting, scheduling, preparing for tasks, events, projects
  • Influencing - selling, persuading, encouraging
  • Training - helping and guiding others to learn and develop new skills
  • Leadership - leading, directing, guiding others
  • Time management - meeting deadlines, setting priorities, being on time
  • Teamwork - achieving goals with others
  • Organising - arranging, co-ordinating people, resources and schedules
  • Physical strength and co-ordination - being fit, strong and able to move your whole body smoothly and accurately
  • Precision work - handling things accurately, carefully and quickly
  • Fixing and repairing - mending, restoring, renovating things
  • Mechanical operation - operating tools, machinery or technology.

Chelsea Harmer

"You don’t always think something is a skill until you actually do it. Like when I was working as a checkout operator I thought I wasn’t confident enough talking to people I didn’t know. But as I dealt with more and more people, I become more confident."

Chelsea Harmer, Completed Airline Qualification

    What are hard and soft skills?

    Hard skills are specific, sometimes technical activities that you can do well. These may include being able to:

    • do precise, detailed and accurate work
    • analyse, evaluate and solve problems
    • drive vehicles and use equipment
    • organise and co-ordinate activities and other people
    • do repetitive tasks competently and reliably
    • communicate clearly in writing and orally
    • sell products or services.

    Soft skills are qualities and strengths that are specific to you as an individual. These may include being able to:

    • readily take responsibility
    • persuade and influence others
    • adapt easily to a wide range of activities and unexpected changes
    • perform work under stressful conditions.

    What different types of skills are there?

    Each skill that you have will also fall into one of three main categories, depending on its nature. These categories are:

    Transferable skills

    A transferable skill is one that can be used in a variety of situations or jobs - you transfer them from one job to another. The great thing about transferable skills is that they make you adaptable.

    Transferable skills can be hard or soft skills. Examples include:

    • problem solving
    • the ability to organise others
    • the ability to work with facts and figures
    • good communication skills.
    • good writing skills
    • good verbal and communication skills
    • ability to work unsupervised
    • ability to use initiative
    • accuracy and/or an eye for detail
    • ability to work confidently under pressure
    • reliability and integrity
    • ability to motivate others
    • ability to recognise and meet new challenges.

    Unlike job-specific skills (like being able to use a drill), transferable skills can be used in lots of ways. They are also like building blocks from which you can develop many more skills.

    Self-management skills

    Self-management skills enable you to work well in different types of situations with a variety of people. These can be hard or soft skills. Examples include: meeting deadlines, being motivated and showing initiative.

    Specialist skills

    Specialist skills usually relate to a specific job or group of jobs. These are usually hard skills. Examples include: fluency in a language or the ability to use specific computer programs and technical equipment.

    Identifying your skills can help you plan your next steps

    When planning the next steps in your career, it's important to identify the skills and competencies you have. This will help you to:

    • decide what sort of jobs you might like to do
    • decide what areas you need to focus your study or training on
    • write your CV if you are applying for a job.