What Are Your Key Skills and Abilities?

A self-assessment to help you find career success.

Posted Aug 16, 2014

This self-assessment should help you do that expeditiously. After revieweing hundreds of skills and abilities listed in Gallup’s Strengths Finder, Eureka’s Microskills, the Knowdell Motivated Skills Card Sort, Elevations, and Skills Profiler, I adapted or wrote 26 that I believe are most likely to help people find and succeed in white-collar/professional employment.

Instructions: For each of these 26 abilities and skills, rate yourself A, B.,C, D, or F, first on your competence and then on your desire to use it in your career.  So, for example, if you consider yourself an excellent writer and would love to write on the job, write “A/A.”


1. Communicate one-on-one. Perceptive and patient listening and emotional intelligence: knowing what will engender positive and negative feelings and behaviors. _____

2. Coach. In your preferred field (athletics, personal growth, financial, whatever,) balance facilitation and advice so clients’ lives actually improve. _____

3. Inspire. Motivate supervisees, customers, or clients to take action. _____

4. Negotiate. Get parties to agree, including in contentious situations.  _____

5. Liaise. Connect people with each other and to resources. _____


6. Write. Expeditiously create clear, helpful, and if appropriate, entertaining prose.  _____

7. Give a talk. Concisely, enjoyably teach to convey content and/or change behavior. _____

8. Explain and advise. Explain clearly and advise wisely without engendering undue resistance. _____


9. Generate ideas. Regularly come up with fresh yet workable approaches. _____

10. Analyze and synthesize. Distill the appropriate range of information into its key elements and then reconstitute it into a logical whole. _____

11. Evaluate. Judge the quality and cost-effectiveness of programs, employees, etc. _____

Business (for- and non-profit)

12. Sell/fundraise.  Easily engender trust, remain ethical despite being motivated to achieve financial targets, and be resilient in the face of rejection. _____

13. Start a business. Identify a need, then develop and lead a practical plan to meet it. _____


14. Molecular biology. Competence in working at the molecular and genomic levels. _____

15. Chemistry or physics. Analyze and create substances and develop predictive models. _____

16. Quantitative reasoning. Use mathematical or statistical procedures to analyze data or solve problems. _____

17. Develop software. Use key languages (e.g., C and Java) and reasoning ability to create elegant or at least functional, bug-light code. _____

18. Design. Engineer or otherwise design products. _____

19. Treat. Accurately diagnose and successfully treat conditions. _____

20. Entertain. Consistently attract and please significant numbers of live and/or digital audience members. _____

21. Produce art. Using hand drawing and computed-based tools, time-effectively develop professional-level renderings for fine-art and, usually more lucratively, commercial use. _____

Miscellaneous soft skills

22. Handle details.  Making few errors, coordinate events, audit financials, etc.  _____

23. Organize. Arrange events, documents or other objects in a structured way. _____

24. Remain calm. Retain composure in emergencies and with stressed people. _____

25. Be efficient. Be time- and cost-effective. _____

26. Aesthetic judgment. Accurately predict what customers and coworkers will deem attractive. _____

Now what?

If you’re looking for a career, think of what career(s) would amalgamate the abilities/skills you’re best at and would enjoy using. If nothing emerges, review lists of careers, keeping those skills and abilities in mind. Compendia of careers include the authoritative Occupational Outlook Handbook (or free online: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/ and (bias alert!:) my book, Cool Careers for Dummies, which offers quick hits and one or more URLs for additional info on 500 careers, many under-the-radar. Or play around on that wealth of assessments linked to careers: www.onetonline.org.

And if you’re already on the job, might there be ways to tweak what you do so you spend more time using your favorite skills and abilities?

Marty Nemko's bio is in Wikipedia.