Career Connector

Telling Your Skill Story


If you haven’t had work experience, can you still have job-related skills?

It’s a question that occurred to me yesterday when I was delivering a skills workshop to a group of Gen Y’s. Now this particular group represents mostly uneducated, unemployed New Yorkers who are seeking entry-level jobs, and I train them as part of my volunteer commitment to this particular organization.

What struck me was that everyone in the room had work experience, but when I asked people to name skills they had and provide examples of how they had used those skills at work, they had a tough time.

When I ask juniors in high school to tell me about their skills, they also have trouble. Each of us has hundreds of skills, but unless we are asked to think about our abilities in the context of what we can deliver—to a teacher, to an employer—we may come up empty-handed. And if you can’t talk about your skills, when you’re applying for an internship and are on the spot in someone’s office, you’re not going to make the right impression.

So if you or your child are thinking about an internship or a job, start talking about skills. Ask the tough questions, role play some ideas. If you don’t ask people to tell their skill story before the interview, they will invariably say the wrong thing, or at the very best, not make the right impression.

If you’re a good writer, be prepared to discuss your background and provide writing samples. If you’re good at math, tout your test scores and awards. If you’re super-organized, be ready to give examples of how you use that skill. Whatever it is, tell the story so it resonates.

This entry was posted in For Advisors to Individuals & Families, For Mid-Career Professionals, For Millennials, For Parents and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Telling Your Skill Story

  1. Vickie Elmer says:

    This is such important work – helping people connect the dots and see their skills. And then showing them how to use storytelling in their search, and doing it as a volunteer – wonderful!
    Here’s my article on using storytelling for career success with some tips at the end that may be helpful, I hope:

  2. Allison says:

    Vickie, thank you. And thanks for sending your story, which has great, concrete tips for how to sell yourself through storytelling. It really is an art and it really does require practice.

  3. Amy Potthast says:

    Allison, I agree!

    I have the same advice for people — be concrete in your storytelling, a specific time when you used your skill.

    We’ve tried to adapt the concept for different audiences, if anyone is looking for a how-to — we learned the seed of these steps from Pam Rechel (someone I know through AmeriCorps networks here in Oregon):

    For a job interview –

    For grad school —

    Thanks for highlighting this topic, I think it’s a simple thing that makes all the difference in an interview.

  4. Allison says:

    Amy, I’m a big fan of Idealist and mention you guys all the time in my blog posts. Thanks for the great info.

  5. Pingback: Help! My Child Doesn’t Have a Summer Internship! | TeenLife News

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