Coaching Clients in Identifying Skills

By Tim Lutenski


     A critical task for career specialists who assist clients in searching for work or making career decisions is to help them understand the importance of identifying skills that meet a business need and can be linked with suitable work that provides personal fulfillment and satisfaction.  We live in a skills based society where individuals need to market their skills to employers in exchange for money, position, power, and influence, yet many clients are unaware of their skill sets and/or fail to find the proper work fit relative to their major strengths.  Generally, the more time and effort a client devotes to the task of uncovering their strengths the greater the benefits they will realize in terms of finding work in which they can exercise and apply their best skills. 


     Communicating the significance of skills to clients is usually best initiated by summarizing and clarifying the distinction between the two main skill types that define their accomplishments and strengths: work content and transferable skills.   

Work content skills typically:

Transferable skills typically:


       The vast majority of people (including potential employers) view the world of work in terms of work content skills that are task focused and job specific (essentially where specific occupations are viewed as requiring specific skills) versus focusing on transferable skills that are portable in nature and have wider application (such skills can be transferred and linked to other occupations having similar characteristics and functions).

     Those clients who know their transferable skills and are able to communicate these skills to potential employers have a distinct advantage over other job seekers and may also realize additional long term benefits:

 In today's rapidly changing world of work, transferable skills really are the foundation on which both job-hunting and future work success rests. 


 Identifying work content skills is a process that is typical straightforward in nature and not as difficult as identifying transferable skills.  Identifying marketable, transferable skills can be done by taking a formal skills inventory, seeking input from friends and family members, or by looking at various personal factors and identifying:

    Through one or more of these methods most clients can successfully identify broad skill categories (e.g., communication skills), be encouraged to break these down into more specific categories (e.g., speaking well, specifically by describing, negotiating, and persuading) and look at potential occupations where these could be used (e.g., labor negotiator).  At this point it is also important to help clients understand the following:



    Once clients have a fundamental understanding of their skills, here are recommendations I provide them with regard to building a successful career and work life:

     In the process of looking for work and making career decisions, client skill identification is of critical importance. Those clients who identify skills they are passionate about using, can effectively communicate them to potential employers, and are able to align them with a job that is a proper fit  are much better positioned to find and engage in meaningful work that provides long term satisfaction and personal fulfillment.


Tim Lutenski (M.A., Organizational Leadership and M.A., Counseling Psychology) is an Instructional Specialist at St. Clair County Community College (Port Huron, MI) and the Director of For Your Career.  He teaches courses, workshops, and seminars, coordinates training in career and educational planning, and provides coaching and consultation services.  Tim works with individuals, groups, and organizations dealing with career issues, and volunteers in providing career guidance to those with special needs, including ex-offenders, survivors of domestic violence, and the homeless.  He can be reached through his web site at www.foryourcareer.com or via email at info@foryourcareer.com.

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