If there are two words we use interchangeably, skills and strengths are them.
Have you ever found yourself saying, “Using computers is one of my strengths” or “I’ve got the skill of emotional intelligence?”
The thing is — the two sentences above could be wrong, but to be honest, it sort of just shows how these have evolved to be pretty interchangeable.
Here’s a really easy way to keep track of the difference:
- Skills: Are abilities you’ve developed through training and practice.
- Strengths: Are usually inherent qualities someone possesses – and you probably had them before you ever started a job (although they can develop too)
But again, the difference here is murky. You might have always been great with people (strength) and this strength might make you good at sales (skill). So the two are not totally separate. Let’s break down a bit more how these two things work.
Here are skills vs strengths, and how to tell the difference.
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Understanding Skills and Strengths
Defining Skills and Strengths
Okay. So I offered a bit of a definition above. Let’s break this down even further
Skills: These are the abilities and applicable knowledge someone develops through education, training and experience. People also often break these down to hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are usually thought of as practical, domain-specific skills people have (ie. coding or writing). Soft skills are usually transferable skills that can be used in a lot of different domains (communication or critical thinking).
Strengths: Strengths are usually things you’re born with or that you get from a young age (don’t get me started on nature vs. nurture here). We usually talk about creativity, honesty, and work ethic as strengths. Chances are you didn’t learn these at a specific job — they’re more likely parts of your character you have had for a long time.
But this is where it gets muddy. One of my kids has leadership strengths. She’s that kid in class who always has her hand up, or steps up to run a group. At this point, I wouldn’t put her in charge of a company. 🤣
BUT, in time, these leadership strengths could develop into managerial skills in an office.
The point is, there’s some crossover between skills and strengths, and the two are related.
Examples of Skills and Strengths
To illustrate the difference between skills and strengths, here are a few more examples:
You can always learn new high-income skills too!
Using Your Skills and Strengths in Your Career
Okay, so at this point, you’re probably most interested in using skills and strengths to get a job or make more money. This means that you’ll need to figure out where your skills and strengths work best.
I’ve believed in skills for a long time… Over college degrees.
If you have the right SKILL SET and it’s in demand, it opens a lot of opportunities. I firmly believe that most of the time, the amount you get paid will be in direct proportion to the skills you have.
And as I’ve talked about a lot on this blog. You can actually develop your own skills more!
How to Identify Career Paths That Align with Your Skills and Strengths
Try this. Sit by yourself with a piece of paper and write out all the skills and strengths you can think of. Then, write how good you are at each of those things (maybe pick a number between one and ten). Think about the evidence for how good you are (ie. I know I’m good at social media marketing, because I grew my company’s Facebook Page to 10,000 followers).
Then, go to LinkedIn. Type some of your skills and competencies into the search bar and hit “People.”
Et voila! You’ll see a bunch of PEOPLE who have those skills or strengths.
You can also use LinkedIn job postings. Your profile will automatically suggest jobs based on your skills that you have filled out in the “Skills” section. And if you have LinkedIn Premium, this will go a step further by helping you figure out how the skills on your profile line up with the job posting.
It will show you something like this:
I have a video where I talk about these types of LinkedIn Hacks:
Other than LinkedIn, you can use different skills and strengths tests to figure out which are your strongest. Myers-Briggs, Clifton Strengths Assessment — stuff like that. I’ve used Myers-Briggs a lot and always found the answers really interesting (although not perfect).
There’s a really solid (and free) Myers-Briggs test at the site, 16 Personalities.
Often it’s harder to see skills in yourself than in others. So asking people who know you what your skills and strengths are can be really helpful. This could be your friends or family.
But if you are still on good terms with former bosses, that’s even better!
OR, try your teachers! There’s nobody who knows your skills and strengths as well as the educators who watch you in action.
How to Highlight Your Skills and Strengths in Your Job Search
Okay, so you’ve figured out what your skills vs strengths are. How does that help you get a job? Here’s how:
Show them on a resume
Use your skills and strengths on your resume. And make sure you include the examples to show how powerful your skills are (I talked about writing these on a paper, above).
Here’s what I mean. If my skill was “Grant writing,” I can say (truthfully) “Grant writing won $300k in academic grants). If my skill was public speaking, maybe the proof is that I won a prize at a competition. Try to use numbers and proof to show how valuable your skills are.
Meeting people in your industry helps you figure out what your skills are AND helps you refine the way you talk about them.
I’ve found networking (conversation with strangers) have been a huge boost to my career. It’s helped me figure out what career paths to follow (and avoid) and those relationships opened doors for me.
If you want to get started but aren’t sure how, try an informational interview.
Find a coach
A good career coach has experience talking to a lot of different people and can help you uncover your skills and strengths!
I hope this post has helped you get a handle on your skills and strengths and the differences between the two! You’ve got a lot to offer. You just need to figure out what it is and how to sell yourself. Good luck!
Now Read: How to Make 100K a Year – 8 Strategies