One of the hardest things for women to learn–in or beyond the school years–is the difference between skills and attributes. When you’re looking for a summer job, an internship, or a real job after graduation, it’s important that you focus on skills.
If I could teach you only one lesson through this article it would be this: have the confidence to “brag” about your strengths. In the business world your strengths translate to skills. Even executive women often have a hard time talking about their accomplishments-which is a holdover from the time that women were supposed to be demure and fade into the background of a man’s world.
You’re entering a business world where, according to the March 26 issue of Time, “women are overtaking men as America’s breadwinners” and becoming “the richer sex.” Women have proven that they can succeed-and at all ages we need to speak up about our strengths and accomplishments in a professional but assertive way. Because women are often not comfortable “tooting their own horn,” they talk about their softer “attributes” (like team player) more than their hard-core skills (like writing).
When I asked a woman recently to name the skills that she would bring to a certain job, she told me that she is well educated, personable, reliable, and a creative thinker. These are all nice things to be, but they are not skills. Every employer in the free world expects every employee to be well educated, personable, and reliable. And in just about every job—from Acrobat to Zoologist—it’s pretty standard to expect creative thinkers.
What potential employers want to know is what sets you apart. What distinguishes you from all other applicants? What are the most significant skills that you would bring to their job?
Skills should be all over your resume. Let employers know that you can write press releases, form and lead teams, create spreadsheets, develop budgets, deliver presentations, sell products, conceive a marketing plan, design web sites, and everything else that you have the “skills” to do.
Finding a job is the ability to solve a problem-or a fill a gap-for an employer. There are not Directors of Reliability or Managers of Creative Thinking at non-profits or corporations. There are writers, organizational development professionals, accountants, communications managers, sales and marketing stars, web site designers and many more masters of certain skills. Name your skills and have the confidence to give a shout out about your accomplishments to potential employers far and wide.
- Learn the difference between skills and attributes
- Get comfortable bragging about your skills and accomplishments
- Identify the skills that truly distinguish you in the sea of job applicants.