skills vs. job

Career Planning: Identifying and Matching Your Skills to Your Dream Job

When it comes to your career planning, there will always be one basic balancing act at the heart of everything that you are trying to achieve: balancing the job of your dreams against your ability to do it successfully. Sounds simple, right?

Well, interestingly enough, job seekers often overlook this crucial piece of the puzzle when seeking out a new opportunity. They don’t seem to realize it can mean the difference between the excitement of hearing “when can you start?” and the disappointment of  “unfortunately, we don’t have a place for you within our organization.”

Your strong desire for your dream job doesn’t always match your current ability to work it successfully. For this reason you must take a good, long, hard look at what you have to offer versus what the job requires. Specifically, what skills does the position require in order to get done? What will you need to do, to go above and beyond leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind that you are the right person for the job?

Begin by thinking of how you would describe yourself to others. What qualities would you say sets you apart from your competition? Are you highly organized? Ridiculously ambitious? Do you adapt well to new situations and environments? Can you sell ice to an Eskimo? Understanding your skills as strengths can help you match your abilities to the situations that are best suited for you and prepare you for better success in not only landing the job, but also excelling at it.

Consider this: if your dream job is being a stock broker on the stock market, but the idea of changes and fluctuations in the market terrifies you, guess what? You’ll never be seen as the fearless risk-taker who will do well in that job.  Furthermore, you probably will never get hired; worse yet, if you get lucky and are hired you’ll probably get a “pink slip” in short order.

Likewise, if your dream job is to be the live entertainment on a luxury cruise liner, traveling the world and enjoying the best life has to offer, but you suffer from motion sickness, well… I bet you now see where we’re going with this.

All hope isn’t lost however. There is a simple solution that begins with re-evaluating your options. For example, have you considered working for a family business or other small company? What about starting your own business ?

Are you brave enough to go after something you always wanted to do and know you could be good at doing?  When considering your career choices, keep in mind that your skills and talents can be applied to a many different types of roles within multiple fields and industries — that is to say, don’t rule anything out just because it wasn’t in your original plan.

We go through life doing many things and doing them very well. When people ask us how, we say things like “oh, it just comes naturally” or “this is easy.” Well congratulations! If it was easy or came naturally it means this is an innate skill you have, whether you were born that way, or developed the skill over time. Most people have plenty of skills like these, but find it very difficult to articulate their greatness to themselves, and much less so on a résumé or to a prospective employer.

So, this is a great time to pursue your dreams for a better career, a better opportunity, a better life. There are plenty of resources on the internet to help you figure out your special attributes that make you unique, and that would bring value to a would-be employer. Some resources quiz you on the every day things that you’re good at (such as caring for your family, being an exceptional confidante or even having a love of puzzles), then help you apply the results to understanding how you fit into the professional world. A personal favorite is the StrengthsFinder. Created by Gallup, Inc., a company best known for gathering a wide range of statistical data in polls, the StrengthsFinder assessment uses a series of abstract questions about your behavior and reactions in work environments to determine where you fit as a professional in the workforce.

Another personal (no cost) favorite is the personal Career SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats).  When you know your strengths and weaknesses, you are better equipped to find a role that not only suits your tastes but also one that you are more likely to excel in; the skills are already there! If you question the validity of one assessment, take another one; rest assured that there will be a trend among your top skills. You only need to identify a handful that you can use to snag the job of your dreams, or to readily express your value to a potential employer. This way, your handful is easy to call to mind, you can tighten up on the way you “sell” them, and with your newfound focus, you can zero-in and strengthen them just as you would a muscle.

Scrutinizing your skills and seeing how they match up to your dream job is critical because you need to let your true talents shine, not the ones you think you have or wish you had, but those talents that are true to you. You can always work on strengthening your other skills later, but when it comes to getting hired for a job you will love, a great place to start is by taking a good look at your preexisting skills and use them to set the stage for your success.

Additional Tools to help you discover your strengths:

Your Career SWOT Analysis (Download)

Kiss That Frog