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.  Your abilities influence how easily you are able to learn certain skills. For example, if you have a strong general math ability, you will find it easier to learn algebra in grade school and calculus and high school.

Ideally, you will want to pursue an occupation that involves using skills that you like using and that you are good at using.  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 abilities and the tasks required for each occupation.  You can then eliminate the occupation that is a worse fit with your 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 abilities make them a better fit to learn the skills associated with being a psychologist rather 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 skills 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 is 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 cultural 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 self-doubts that may be unfairly reducing your confidence in your 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.  While confidence is one important piece, It is also important to acknowledge that people with marginalized identities can also face systemic barriers to career success in the form of biased and discriminatory policies embedded in our nations institutions (e.g., schools).

If you already have substantial real-world work experience and are looking to use your current skills in a new occupation, the CareerOneStop Skills Profiler is a good skills assessment that can help you consider possible occupations.  If you are still a student, I do not think the Profiler will be a good tool for you.  The Minnesota State CAREERwise Education, Skills website has lots of handy information about occupational skills, employability skills, and links to useful skills resources, if you want to learn more.

After you’ve used your knowledge of your abilities to eliminate additional occupations from your Roster that don’t align well with your abilities, you can proceed to considering work values.

Here’s a video example of how a person with career counseling training used skills and abilities to further narrow the Roster: