I was reading the papers the other day, and came across someone talking about "unskilled American workers." Oh my, oh my, I thought to myself, as a paraphrase of Pete Seeger's song began to run through my mind (well, strolled, actually): "When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?"
Skills. Was ever there a more misunderstood subject, or a more misunderstood word?
It has been so, for ages: people "putting down" other people by saying, "They have no skills."
Let us stand in front of the mirror, and say it loud and clear: "Everyone has skills. Everyone has skills." Dozens. Hundreds.
I teach a two week workshop every summer, attended by people from around the world, poor, rich, young, old, schooled and unschooled, and no one â€“ no one â€“ has ever failed to have at least 500 skills. The only question is: which kind, and what are they?
We are all born gifted, we are all born â€˜skilled.' Even the most (so-called) handicapped among us. Watch a baby learn, digest information, and put it to use. The skills every child has are astounding!
What, then, are these skills? What do we have, to offer to the world? Basically there are three kinds of skills that you have, and I have, to offer to the world. It is useful to think of them in three categories: verbs, nouns, and adjectives.
Your Skills as Verbs
Some of your skills are verbs, or can be made into verbs, ending in "-ing," like: healing, sewing, constructing, driving, communicating, persuading, motivating, negotiating, calculating, organizing, planning, memorizing, researching, synthesizing, etc.
These are your Transferable (Functional) Skills. They are also called talents, gifts, and "natural skills." They are the strengths you have, often from birth. Some people, for example, are born knowing how to negotiate; but if you weren't, you often can learn how to do it as you grow. So, some of these skills are "acquired." You rarely ever lose these skills.
They are called your Transferable Skills because they can be transferred from one occupation to another, and used in a variety of fields, no matter how often you change careers. These skills are things you are good at doing with one of three universes: either people, or things or data/information/ ideas.
Most of us lean toward preferring work that is primarily with either people, or data, or things. And why? Because that's where our best skills lie, that is, the skills we most love to use. You were born gifted: you are good with either data, or things, or people.
That's the first thing you have, to offer to the world.
Your Skills as Nouns
And then, some of your skills are nouns. Like: computers, English, antiques, flowers, colors, fashion, Microsoft Word, music, farm equipment, data, graphics, Asia, Japanese, the stock market, etc.
These are called your Subject Skills, or Knowledge Skills. They are subjects that you know something about, and love to use in your work.
They are knowledge stored in your brainâ€”which you may think of as a vast filing cabinet, at your command. They are often called "your expertise."
You have learned these, over the years. Through apprenticeships (formal or informal), school, life experience, books, or from a mentor. It doesn't matter how you learned them; you did. Question is: which ones do you absolutely love to use?
These expertise are the second thing you have, to offer to the world.
Your Skills as Adjectives
And then there are the third kind of skills, those that are adjectives or adverbs. Like: accurate, adaptable, creative, dependable, flexible, methodical, persistent, punctual, responsible, self-reliant, tactful, courteous, kind, etc.
You know, of course, these are your Personal Trait Skills. Traits are the ways you manage yourself, the way you discipline yourself. Hence, they become the style in which go about doing your transferable skills. Often these are hammered out, in the crucible of experience.
We speak of our traits, in everyday conversation, as though they floated freely in the air: "I am dependable, I am creative, I am woman, I am man." But in actuality traits are always attached to your transferable skills, as adjectives or adverbs.
For example, if your favorite transferable skill is "researching," then your traits describe or modify how you do your "researching." Maybe: methodically. Maybe: creatively. Maybe: dependably. And so forth.
These styles, these self-disciplines, are the third thing you have, to offer to the world. How you combine these three kinds of skills, is what makes you unique.
It is important then, that you figure out what kinds of jobs need the transferable skills, and the expertise, and the traits that you most like to use. After all, you were born because the world needs what you uniquely have to offer.