5 Steps in 10 Minutes: Creating a Personal Skill Inventory


Q: I need to find a job in my field, but to do that, I need experience. How am I supposed to get experience without a job?

A: This is a classic conundrum. Almost every college grad has had to go through this at some point, be it during college looking for internships, or after graduation searching for jobs. Hopefully, you have held at least one job in your lifetime, even if it was a summer mowing lawns or working in a store or restaurant. If you are lucky (and smart) and have held internships in your field, coming up with skills pertinent to your new job will a piece of cake.

Even if you know you have relevant skills, you can still complete this exercise to better prepare for interviews. Throw in some industry-specific terms in your cover letter or resume, but don’t overload it with buzzwords or technical jargon. However, if you haven’t been lucky enough to do work in your field, don’t despair!

Whether or not you’ve worked part-time, volunteered somewhere, or even pursued a long-term hobby, you can still come up with skills that are relevant and necessary for your chosen profession.


How to create your personal skill inventory in 10 minutes or less:

Step 1  (2 minutes):
Fold a sheet of paper in half. On one side, write a very short description of every job you have ever held, even off-the-books ones like babysitting or lawn-mowing. In the other column, write a brief description of your dream job, or the job to which you are applying. Use the job posting to save time and effort.

Step 2 (3 minutes):
Flip the paper over. Brainstorm all of the skills and responsibilities you had in each of your previous jobs in one column. This includes everything – ‘handled money and receipts’, ‘locked or unlocked the store’, ‘trained other employees’, ‘maintained safe and clean work environment’, ‘communicated with clients and customers’, ‘maintained professional demeanor in a stressful environment’… pretty much everything you ever did at these jobs is fair game. Even if it sounds funky at first (‘stocked shelves’), write it down. You can translate these into more eloquent language later on, but get all of your ideas down on paper now.

Step 3 (1 minute):
Brainstorm all of the skills and responsibilities at the job you are pursuing. Check the job posting or description for hints.

Step 4 (1 minute):
If an item in one column matches an item in the other, circle them and draw a connecting line. Do this for every skill or responsibility until you match as many as possible.

Step 5 (3 minutes):
Spend a few minutes thinking about your old job responsibilities in terms of the requirements of your new job. Brainstorm some questions that an interviewer might ask, and try to work in specific examples from your previous jobs.

There you have it! If you went through this 10 minute exercise, you’ve now got a huge advantage over tens of thousands of other job seekers who can’t relate their past experience with the responsibilities of a new job.

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  1. […] demand. Are you organized and a people person? You might make a great project manager. Develop your personal skill inventory and play up your strengths. Figure out what it is that you bring to the […]

  2. […] Practice your answers to typical interview questions. If you need help thinking of ways to talk about your accomplishments, see this article on how to create your personal skill inventory. […]



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