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How to identify the skills you need to develop your career

Your ability to accurately determine the skills and attributes needed to fulfil the requirements of your career progression requires research, honest self-reflection and time.

If the role you want is with your current employer, your research could involve discussions with the person currently in that role, their peers, the person they report to, HR and anyone else you think is relevant to better understanding the job. This will be more difficult for external opportunities, where you will need to rely on the internet and any industry or company contacts you have.

The majority of your research should focus on the skills required for the position. It is best to break them down into the technical (hard) and interpersonal (soft) skills.

Technical skills may relate to IT, science, mathematics and trades. They are trained skills which are necessary to complete given tasks, and may include being familiar with a particular software, typing, analysis, accounting and operating machinery. Interpersonal skills involve your ability to communicate openly and honestly to build meaningful relationships. Those skills are hugely useful for resolving conflict, coaching team members, networking and reporting to those up the line.

As you start to build a picture of the skills you’ll need for your desired role, you might want to set up a “capability matrix”. This matrix should contain all the technical and interpersonal skills and attributes required for the new role. But there is no room for assumptions; it needs to be factual. This matrix will help you clearly identify any skill gaps that need to be covered to ensure your readiness and employability.

How can I identify the new skills I will need to support my career progression?

As an example, the top row of the matrix may contain the labels Position, Leadership and Management. The secondary row under Leadership and Management may contain two columns: one headed Technical Skills and the other Interpersonal Skills. Below these are the lists for each skill required in the role.

Capability matrix
A sample capability matrix

It is now time for some honest self-reflection and feedback from trusted colleagues, friends or family to help you confirm your current skill set. Once you have consolidated this, simply tick off all the skills you believe you currently possess. The skills left blank are the ones you need to learn and develop.

Of course, there are also less tangible skills that are vital for career progression. The way you think may need to progress to thinking conceptually, strategically and organisationally, with a strong dose of self-reflection. This enables new thinking and ideas on how you may fit and strengthen the strategic direction of your team and the organisation. This can be quite difficult if you are not used to thinking this way.

When all is said and done, if you want to make the best decision for you and your career progression, take the necessary time to research and reflect on where you want to go and why you want to go there.

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