(9/17/2016 – These posts have been expanded in a book, Skill Portability: A Guide To Moving Skills Between Jobs)
Last column I discussed my quick guide to figuring out how to port skills form job to job and career to career. My somewhat annoying acronym is “DARE”, with each letter, unsurprisingly, reminding you of the four ways you can identify portable skills.
Last week it was D – Direct. The boring realization some skills are just directly useful. You probably got that.
This week it’s “A” – Advantageous Skills.
Advantageous skills are skills that provide you certain advantages on the job, for the client, etc. They aren’t required, they don’t affect other skills. They’re free and clear not required – but provide you great advantages by just having them. We may miss them, however, since they’re not directly relevant until we think about it.
You know those skills you honed at Power Point? That’s a portable skill because you’ll probably use it anywhere. I call it “Advantageous” because you can use it for so much.
Your ability to write in general? That’s a portable skill since it can use used in a variety of situation. I call it “Advantageous” since you can not only use it anywhere, but it’s a big advantage over people who can’t. Sure it’s not required, but . . .
That specific knowledge of an industry? That might be portable because even if your job isn’t in that industry, the place you work may need your knowledge because they interact with it. I put it in “Advantageous” because it may give you a big advantage with vendors or contacts, even if it’s not required (or is only a small part of your job)
A bit general? It is – sometimes these skills “leak” into other categories. But Advantageous skills are extremely important because they’re one of the difference-makers. You’re competing with who-knows how many people with the same Direct skills – these are ones that enhance those direct skills or bring other advantages.
Use these right in interviews and you’ll not only show why you’re such a hot choice, you’ll have the advantage of surprise. Too many people pitch themselves as generic.
So how do you determine if a skill is Advantageous?
- It’s not in the main list of skills for the job. That’s kind of obvious, but remembering this keeps you from missing things.
- It gives you a distinct advantage in the job. It may not be a major one, but it is still relevant and will be used on the job (or could be).
- It is well-developed enough to provide an advantage. This is where it’s important to decide just how good you are at . . . whatever it is you do.
- It is distinct enough to talk about. This gets to be a difficult call as I’ll talk about below.
I find Advantageous skills fall into two categories: General and Specific
General Advantageous Skills are ones like time management, certain software packages that are common, people skills, etc. Though some of these may sound awful common or touchy-feely, remember if they’re developed enough they are very important. Next time you read a poorly written document or see an awful Power Point, you know how important these skills are. Fortunately General skills are very portable.
Specific Advantageous Skills are those that are highly, highly specialized. Knowledge of a specific but not common software package (that you may want your future employer to use). Understanding of a specific industry and geography (that you may do business in). Advantageous skills are specialized, but you have to make the specific judgement call about how you port them over. The great thing about them is there’s much less chance that your competitors will have them – especially if you know how to pitch them.
Progeek Portability Tip: Advantages Portability
OK Progeeks, let’s look at the specific advantages and challenges you have in finding Advantageous skills and porting them.
- We probably have a lot of skills that may be Advantageous and thus worth porting over, so we have to think them over careful.
- Some of the skills we have may seem a bit odd, and though Advantageous, you have to communicate them carefully. Explaining how you got your experience in presence, style, and good grooming from Cosplay may be a bit odd.
- We have very diverse Advantageous skills, but communicating their advantages in general may be challenging. Case in point my geeky background and culture is great in Silicon Valley, but I had to learn how to explain that I’m a manager who “speak’s geek.”
- As noted we probably develop a lot of Advantageous skills that we can bring over from our other interests. Communicated right these can be real winners – and as we have a lot we can manage a one-two punch with the right Advantageous skill set.
- We’ve probably applied our Advantageous skills in a lot of unusual ways. This can help us show that we take them seriously and can really use them. This is useful when communicating some general skills that a lot of people have.
So when figuring how to port your skills, remember it may not be a Direct skill you can use, but one that’s Advantageous. That might be the deal-maker you need.
Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach. He blogs on careers at http://www.fantopro.com/, nerd and geek culture at http://www.nerdcaliber.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.