Now that you’ve started to narrow your occupations Roster, it’s time turn our attention to other criteria, starting with skills and abilities.
Your skills are the tasks that you’ve learned to do well (e.g., drawing, public speaking). Your abilities (e.g., math, reading) are your natural talents that have been shaped by your genetics and childhood environment. Skills and talents overlap and your talents tend to shape how easily you can pick up certain skills.
Ideally, you will want to pursue an occupation that involves doing tasks that you like and that you are good at. In fact, these two things influence each other: we often tend to like the things that we’re good at, and we tend to be good at the things we like to do. It’s not always true, but it’s a good rule of thumb.
If you are considering 2 occupations on your Roster that are both of equal interest to you, the next step is to consider which of the two occupations you will be “better at.” In other words, how good of a fit is there between your skills/abilities and the tasks required for each occupation. You can then eliminate the occupation that is a worse fit with your skills and abilities. (Check out the Skills, Abilities, etc. sections of the occupations’ O*NET Summary Report to learn more about what is required for each occupation.)
For example, if someone has interest in being either a medical physician or a psychologist, but has difficulty learning biology and finds learning psychology comes more easily, then this might suggest that their skills are a better fit for a psychologist than a medical physician. This person could, therefore, cross off medical physician from their Roster and leave psychologist on their Roster.
Importantly, you should think about the skills that you will have after finishing the necessary education and on-the-job training, not the skills you might happen to possess right now. If you still have time to get additional education and training, then there is no need to know all the skills for your future occupation right now. What is important, however, is your confidence in your ability to learn these skills and then apply these skills on the job. If you want to become a mathematician, you want to be reasonably confident in your ability to learn advanced mathematics during your upcoming education/training.
Confidence is a funny thing, though. Sometimes we can be over-confident in our abilities to learn certain tasks, in which case it’s healthy for us to realize our true limitations and plan accordingly. Other times we can be under-confident in our abilities, selling ourselves short even though our true abilities are much higher than we think they are.
Our confidence is powerfully shaped not only by the academic grades and objective feedback we get, but also by the messages we’re given by our family, teachers, peers, and community. For example, in the USA, girls are often told (in explicit or subtle ways) that their math and science abilities are not as good as boys, even when this is not true. Likewise, students of color are often told that their general academic ability and personal character are lower than average and their career prospects are going to be limited as a result, even when such feedback is completely unwarranted and without merit. Thus, as you are making your way through the SCEA, take a moment to think (and, if you can, talk with trusted others) about your own intersecting identities. Think about the messages that you have received as you’ve grown up about your own abilities, worth, and career prospects. You may find it helpful, with the support of others, to work through any undeserved internalized self-doubts that may be artificially reducing the confidence that you deserve to feel about your own abilities. Doing this work can help you get a more accurate sense of your confidence, which can help make this “narrowing of your occupation Roster” based on skills/abilities a more accurate process.
If you don’t have a good sense of your skills and abilities and want to take a skills assessment and/or learn more about what kind of skills employers care about, here are some resources I recommend. However, a gentle warning: be wary of any skills assessment website that tries to claim that you should pick an occupation based primarily on your top skills/abilities.
- CareerOneStop Skills Profiler – Use the Skills Profiler to create a list of your skills and match them to job types that use those skills.
- O*NET Skills Search – Select skills you have or would like to develop and use on the job to identify occupations that require these skills.
- Minnesota State CAREERwise Education, Skills – Has lots of handy information about occupational skills, employability skills, and links to useful skills resources.
After you’ve used your knowledge of your skills/abilities to eliminate additional occupations from your Roster, you can proceed to considering work values.