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Marketing Your 'Hidden' Job Skills


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Mary is a recent college graduate who worked as a server at a local restaurant during the school year, and held an internship at a marketing firm the summer after her junior year. Now she's looking for a full-time job. But with her limited experience, she doubts many employers are interested in hiring her. She is a strong writer and has some knowledge of marketing strategy, but she possesses few other marketable job skills -- or does she?

Millions of job seekers -- including individuals new to the working world and those well past graduation -- wrestle with the same doubts: They're unsure if they are skilled or experienced enough to land a job in today's employment market. If you are among this group, the good news is you likely have more to offer companies than you think. In fact, you may have dozens of "hidden" abilities that employers seek. The trick is to identify and successfully market them. Here's how:

Identifying your skills

The first step is to distinguish your duties from your skills. Duties are the activities you perform on the job: generating reports, helping coordinate an industry conference, providing desktop support. Skills are the tools and techniques you use to accomplish these tasks: knowledge of certain software, communication abilities, leadership.

For example, if you've worked as an administrative assistant, you may have arranged meetings, drafted correspondence and answered the phone. As a result, you likely developed strong planning skills to ensure meetings went smoothly, strong communication abilities to accurately convey your manager's messages to staff, and solid customer service skills to successfully interact with internal and external clients. And that says nothing of your technical skills, such as typing speed, research abilities and knowledge of Microsoft Office. The list goes on.

Before compiling your résumé, write down all of your previous duties. Then list the skills and abilities that were necessary to accomplish each task. Don't limit yourself to full-time jobs. Also include part-time work, volunteer positions and even your hobbies. Perhaps you served as the president of your homeowners association, thereby developing leadership skills, negotiation abilities and knowledge of budgeting processes. Chances are you'll uncover a number of talents you hadn't considered.

Marketing your skills

Of course, identifying your skills is only half the battle. You also must successfully market them to interested companies if you are to eventually land a job. The key is to find out what skills prospective employers are looking for and ensure your résumé and cover letter highlight these abilities.

Start by asking yourself what type of firm you hope to work for: Is it large or small? A public or privately owned company? What industry is it in? What's the corporate culture like? Your answers can help you determine which of your many skills your ideal company may seek.

For example, if you'd like to work for a large firm and speak Mandarin, consider targeting multinational companies that may be looking to hire individuals with your language skills. If you are applying for a position within the advertising field, prospective employers may be intrigued to learn about the pop-culture blog you write.

You can gain an idea of the skills companies seek by looking at the job descriptions they post. For instance, a medical firm may be in need of administrative analysts to help prepare and analyze case reports. Although you have never held this specific role before, the knowledge of case report preparation you attained through volunteering for special projects with other research firms may help you get the job. Conducting informational interviews and consulting specialized publications like Robert Half International's "Glossary of Job Descriptions for Accounting and Finance" also can help you align the skills on your résumé and in your cover letter with the requirements of the position.

One note of caution: Although it may be tempting to include all of your skills in your résumé and cover letter, throwing everything against the wall in hopes that something will stick is rarely an effective strategy. Hiring managers are only interested in one thing: whether, based on what they read, you deserve serious consideration as a candidate. Information that does not contribute to a positive response -- such as your participation in a recent marathon or your expertise with outdated software -- should be omitted.

No matter how much or how little work experience you possess, you likely have a number of skills that will impress hiring managers. Before launching your next job search, take some time to uncover your hidden talents. Doing so will make you a more attractive candidate and increase your chance of success.

Last Updated: 21/08/2008 - 3:55 PM

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