How to Identify Your Unique Skills and Talents, with Kay Kirkman

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 297:

How to Identify Your Unique Skills and Talents, with Kay Kirkman

Airdate: May 26, 2021

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by Top Resume. Top Resume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster.

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Everybody is different. But many of us struggle with standing out, especially when applying for a job.

Today’s guest says one of the best ways to get the attention of a hiring manager is to be clear about what makes you different from others.

Kay Kirkman joins us to talk about how to identify your unique skills and talents.

Kay is a coach, a speaker, and the host of The GenX Career Show. She helps professionals at midlife find their career passion, even if they think they’re too old or it’s too late.

Kay joins us from Atlanta, Georgia.

Well, Kay, let’s jump right into it. Do you think most job seekers know what skills and talents make them unique?

Kay Kirkman:

You know, that’s a great question. I think that most job seekers look to what they’ve already done to determine what makes them “unique and different,” and that could possibly be hindering them. Sometimes the skills that make them unique are not skills that they’re using every day. Sometimes they are, but I do think that it is more of an internal process that job seekers need to go through on their own to determine that, so I guess the answer to your question is, yes and no.

Mac Prichard:

You make an interesting point about looking to your current or your past job when thinking about your next one because most of us are going to change careers several times during our time in the workplace, and in doing so, we’re going to tap different skills, aren’t we?

Kay Kirkman:

Absolutely. You know, so many times, as I said before, we’re not bringing everything that we know to do to our current role, and so, it is important that as we go through our lives and, as you say, we go through many different careers in our lifetime, that we’re constantly taking inventory of the things that we like, the things that we enjoy, the things that we see results from. We have to be very self-aware in terms of what makes us unique. And to your point, we do pick up various skills along the way, and so we just have to really be aware, and that makes it easier for us to determine, you know, what are my unique skills and abilities? You have to be paying attention.

Mac Prichard:

How can taking that inventory of your skills and talents help you in a job search, Kay?

Kay Kirkman:

You know, when you take inventory, first of all, in my opinion, it gives you more confidence as you approach employers. When we do things that we’re good at it, it gives us a sense of accomplishment and also a sense of confidence. And so, I think that confidence is key when you’re approaching employers because the very first thing that you have to do is sell the employer on you, and so the best way to do that is to stand out, what this podcast is about today, and so I think that knowing what it is that you’re good at, what you bring to the table that is different from everybody else out there in the marketplace…

I think the number one thing is that it’s going to bring you confidence and it’s going to change the way that you present yourself when you’re approaching those employers.

Mac Prichard:

How can you hurt your job search as an applicant if you’re unclear about those unique skills and talents?

Kay Kirkman:

Ooh, that’s a really good question because you can, even without saying anything, you can start to give off signs that you’re unsure of yourself. And one thing that an employer always wants is, they want you to make their life easier. So they want to know that you’re able to handle whatever the responsibilities are that you are given, and so, if you’re not clear on what it is that you bring to the table, how are you going to sell that to an employer?

You’ve got to be sold on it first, and if you’re not, it could really, really hinder you when you’re approaching employers because they can sense that and they can see that.

Mac Prichard:

What would you say to a listener who says, “Well, Kay, all of my qualifications and my skills and experiences are right there. On my LinkedIn page, in my resume; can’t the employer figure that out?”

Kay Kirkman:

Well, they could figure…what I would say is, they might be able to but think about how many resumes that potential employer gets every single day. Think about how many resumes. If it’s for a certain position, let’s say it is for an accounting position. So, most accountants are going to have pretty similar backgrounds in terms of what they’ve done, their schooling, and things of that nature, so if the employer’s looking at several different resumes, and they all, on the surface, look about the same, then how are they going to determine who they choose?

If you’ve got something unique, if you’ve got something that stands out, then you could be the person that they choose, as opposed to somebody else who has a similar background, but they just stand out. There’s something unique about them.

If you don’t mind, I can share a story about a client of mine who did something to stand out in that way.

Mac Prichard:

Please do, I’d love to hear it.

Kay Kirkman:

Yeah, so I had a client who was going for an administrative position role, and she had three children, she was a single mom, she hadn’t finished high school, she had a GED. And while she was searching for jobs, she actually started her own small, virtual assistant company. And when I say she started a company, she started doing virtual assistant work for friends of hers, and when she was applying for…she came to me because she wanted to update her resume and she wanted to present herself as professional. Having a GED, it kind of took away a little bit of her confidence when she was approaching employers for roles. And when I looked at her background she hadn’t even mentioned that she had done this virtual assistant work on a freelance basis, all the while, while she was searching for employment, and the fact that she was a single mom, and that she had orchestrated getting her kids their care, getting them to their activities, and things of that nature.

I showed her how she could even use those things as a display of her organizational skills, her project management skills, her negotiation skills. And you know, without going too far into it, we were able to use some of those unique things about her that she actually didn’t even think of as assets for her on her resume, and she was able to get several offers after she reframed how she thought about her unique skills and abilities.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about how to do that and how to get clear about your unique skills and talents. You’ve got a four-step framework that you put your clients through, or that you work with them on, and step one is to frame your ideal career vision. What do you mean by this, Kay?

Kay Kirkman:

Yeah, so if you don’t know what it is that you want, where it is that you’re going…we hear it all the time, if you set out on a trip to New York and you have no idea how to get there, you don’t have a map, you don’t even know what it looks like to get there, how are you going to get there?

So framing your ideal career vision is all about creating a crystal clear vision of the exact type of career that you see for yourself, what it is that you can bring to the role, and what natural skills that you can bring to the marketplace that make you stand out, that only you can do.

When you frame your ideal career vision, it’s really just looking big picture about exactly what you want and what you bring to the table to an employer.

Mac Prichard:

That sounds like a heavy lift. Can you take us through, while it’s important to do, can you take us through some practical steps that your clients go through to get clear about that vision?

Kay Kirkman:

Sure, so one of the things that I do is I do a DISC assessment with them and there are several different assessments out there, but I do think it’s very, very helpful to have some sort of a concrete assessment that helps to give you some grounding of exactly what it is that you are naturally gifted at. You know, sometimes we’re a little bit too close to our skills and talents to really identify them, so that’s a very simple process. Anyone can find an assessment, you can just Google “behavioral assessment” and find one that’s right for you so I think that’s a good place to start.

Another thing I have my clients is just make a list; make a list of all of the things that you’re good at, the things that you enjoy, the types of work that you’ve enjoyed in the past, the things that you were praised for, the things that you are skilled in. Just do a brain dump. Everything that you are really good with, and then you’re going to start narrowing those things down to tailor them to the type of position that you’re seeking.

Mac Prichard:

Well, I want to take a break and when we come back, Kay, I want to talk about taking that list and connecting it to the jobs that you’re going to be most interested in.

Stay with us. When we come back we’ll continue our conversation with Kay Kirkman about how to identify your unique skills and talents.

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Kay Kirkman. She’s a career coach, speaker, and host of The GenX Career Show.

Kay helps professionals at midlife find their career passion, even if they think they’re too old or it’s too late.

She joins us today from Atlanta, Georgia.

Now, Kay, before the break, we were talking about the four-step framework that you take your clients through to get clear about their unique talents and skills, and that first step was to think about that ideal career vision. And you offered some very practical advice about doing an assessment, making a list of things that you’re good at, and then the next step would be to look at ideal jobs or jobs that interested you.

How do you…so many people struggle with identifying a job search goal, a particular position, how do you recommend people make that connection between things that they’re good at and the things that they might do?

Kay Kirkman:

Well, I would recommend to use the job boards such as Indeed and all of the Monster, the different ones out there, Glass Door, any of the job boards, but not in the way that most job seekers do. Most job seekers go to the job boards, they see what positions are open, and they go through the process of sending in their resume. What I like to tell people to do is just use the job boards as an indicator of what’s out there, what type of job titles are out there, what are people hiring for, and where do you see yourself fitting into those things?

I always tell my clients that not only is the interviewer going to be interviewing you but you’re also interviewing the interviewer. You want to make sure that this job is a fit for your unique skills and talents. So, I always say, use the job boards to get an idea of what’s out there but then look at, identify companies that you’d like to work for. Identify job titles that fit what you can do. And then start to approach companies to get your job search going, as opposed to just going to the job boards and sending out your random resumes.

I always like to tell my clients to use their internal network first, before they just go to a job board and start sending out their resume. So, to answer your question, I would say, in order to determine what type of job you want to go for, use the job boards just for titles and to take a temperature check of what’s out there, but then go to your internal network to see who you know, and start identifying companies, and reach out to actual people, rather than starting with just sending out your resume to specific job titles, if that makes sense.

Mac Prichard:

It makes perfect sense. I know there are people, and I certainly had this experience earlier in my career, where you struggle with coming up with a shortlist of both jobs that interest you and companies or organizations where you might want to work. There are so many choices.

What works best with the people that you work with in helping them come up with that shortlist of jobs that they want to apply for and that shortlist of companies? What do they do, Kay?

Kay Kirkman:

Well, one of the things that I do is, I have a dream job discovery list, and it is free to anyone. I have it on my website and I give it to my clients to have them start to brainstorm. So, on this dream job discovery list, I actually compiled a list of over 200 job titles, with descriptions of what those job titles actually do. And what I find is that once my clients start seeing those job titles, it starts to open them up to what’s possible for them. I think sometimes it’s just like you said, Mac, you get stuck, and I think that anything you can do to start expanding your mind to what’s possible and what’s out there and then how it relates to your unique skills, I think will help you to start then identifying exactly what kind of job you want to go after and then that will inform the type of companies that you actually go to as well.

Mac Prichard:

The second step in your four-part process for identifying unique skills and talents is to act, to take action. Tell us more about this.

Kay Kirkman:

This is my favorite step.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, great.

Kay Kirkman:

Act, nothing happens until you take action. And so, we can theorize the type of job we want, we can make lists, we can have a perfect resume on the best grade of paper, but until we actually start to take action, nothing happens. So, in this step is where you start to strategize the exact actions you’re going to take to find the position that’s right for you. Once again, matching your unique talents, youtube skills, and abilities. And so, the type of action that you’re going to take is going to be different, depending on the type of job that you’re going for. So, if you, for example, like one of my clients, want to work in healthcare, actually she wanted to work at the CDC and so for her, there were a lot of different governmental type regulations and things that you had to go through specifically in order to apply for that type of position.

For her, she had to do some research on the type of certifications that she needed, the exact things that she had to do for that type of role. So, the actions that you’re going to take are going to be specific to the type of job that you want. You might have to upgrade your skills, you might have to get a degree, you might have to get a certification, you might have to take a project management course, do some continuing education units.

Again, what you do in the action phase is going to be specific to you and the type of job that you’re looking for.

Mac Prichard:

The third step that you recommend a job seeker take is to manage your mindset when you’re trying to get clear about your unique skills and talents. What do you mean by mindset, Kay? That’s a phrase that a lot of people use; how do you define it?

Kay Kirkman:

Yeah, it’s kind of one of those phrases that are everywhere that no one really knows what it means, and your mindset is really just how you think about things. Once you start to take action, some things might start to come up. Meaning that you might start to doubt that your abilities, your skills, and your talents are good enough for the job that you want. You might start to do things to step back because you’re scared, you’re afraid, you’re afraid of rejection, you’re afraid that maybe the employer that you reach out to won’t answer you back, and guess what? That might happen, so what do you do?

You’ve got to change the way that you think about things. You have to not take things personally and you have to remain as positive as you can. We all know that in the job search process there can be some frustrations. There might be an employer that doesn’t get back to you. There might be a job that you really, really want that you don’t get. And so, you have to remain positive, so I always recommend in terms of mindset, feed your mind with books, with podcasts, like the Dream Job podcast, all sorts of things that are going to help you to remain positive, and remain resilient, and just keep you moving forward in the process, because frustrations, road blocks, things that stand in your way to this job, this dream job that you want, they will come up. And so, once again, your mindset is just how you think about things, so reframe, rethink the way you think about things, and just keep going.

Mac Prichard:

How does managing your mindset and paying attention to it help you get clear about your talents and skills?

Kay Kirkman:

When you manage your mindset, or when you start thinking about your job search differently, you start to become more positive. And you start to look at the possibilities rather than the limitations, and the minute that you start to look at the possibilities, that opens you up to all of the great things that there are about you as a job seeker. When you’re in a negative space and you’re thinking that you can’t do it, no one’s hiring, I’ll never get that job, my skills and talents aren’t good enough, that automatically puts you in the place of defeat, but the moment that you start thinking about yourself in a positive way, you think about all of the skills that you do have.

You think about all of the employers that are hiring. That starts to open you up to possibilities, so now you can start to go back to that first step and start to take that look at yourself and what it is that you bring to the table. But it’s kind of hard to do that when you’re in a negative space and when you’re thinking about things from the standpoint of limitation. We want to get to that place of possibility so that we can start thinking about all the unique talents and capabilities that we have as a job seeker.

Mac Prichard:

The final of your four-step framework is to evaluate, and what kind of evaluation do you recommend?

Kay Kirkman:

There are two steps to it, there are two pieces that we can look at. So, the first part of it is just really simple, do more of what’s working and less of what’s not. So, if you find that the actions that you’re taking are not yielding the results that you want, you want to evaluate what you’re doing and see what you can tweak, see what you can do differently. So, that’s the first part of it, is just think about what it is that you’re doing and if that’s working.

The second part of it is really just an ongoing process. So, even once you get a position, you still want to evaluate how it’s working for you in the job. Evaluation is something that we’re going to be doing consistently, both as a job seeker and also as an employee, and so the first part, as I said, is really just to look at the technical aspects of what you’re doing and if they’re working. But then the second part is just an overall process of evaluation that you’ll continue to go through, and again, that goes back to what makes you unique. Your unique skills and abilities.

You want to keep evaluating to see what new skills and abilities are you developing. You know, we talked about that earlier in the interview, Mac, you talked about how, as we go through our lifetime, we may have several different careers. So, along the way, again, going back to that self-awareness, we have to be aware of the new skills and talents that we’re picking up. Keep evaluating so that we can add those to our repertoire to make us a better employee or, if the time comes and we’re looking for another job, we have those skills and talents that we have picked up that we can make sure that we highlight for our next employer.

Mac Prichard:

It’s been a terrific conversation, Kay, now tell us, what’s next for you?

Kay Kirkman:

Well, next for me is I have a six-week coaching program that I take my clients through where we go through the steps that we outlined today. And, of course, I have my GenX Career Show podcast, which is going strong. I encourage all of your listeners to check us out wherever you listen to your podcasts and we talk about all things career. We talk about the mindset piece, but we also talk about actionable steps that you can take to find that dream job or that dream career.

That’s really what I’m up to, the podcast and my coaching program and working with my clients.

Mac Prichard:

You do a great job on your show, Kay, and I hope our listeners will check it out. They can learn more about your show, your coaching services, and other things that you do by visiting your website, and that is, yourgenxcareer.com.

Now, given all the great advice that you’ve shared today, Kay, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to identify your unique skills and talents?

Kay Kirkman:

The one thing I’d like to leave your listeners with is don’t be so quick to make the job search about running to the job boards and all of a sudden applying, applying, applying. Make sure that you take that step back and do that internal process first of really, really thinking about what your unique skills, talents, and abilities are. Do that process, do your brain dump, do a brainstorm of all of the things that you’re really, really good at, that you really, really like, and that you’ve gotten results from in the past.

First of all, it’s going to make you feel great, but second of all, it’s going to really help you identify those things, solidify those things, so that when you then approach an employer, you’re going to stand out and you’re going to be brilliant, and everyone’s going to want to hire you.

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our guest will be Serena Chan. She’s a recruiter at Cambia Health Solutions. It’s a nonprofit based in Portland, Oregon.

Many job seekers send resumes to as many employers as possible.

Serena says you’ll get much better results by focusing on the jobs that you really want.

Join us next week when Serena Chan and I talk about why you need to stop applying everywhere and what you need to do instead.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

As a job seeker, it’s your responsibility to know what skills and abilities you have that set you apart from other applicants. Figuring out what makes you unique isn’t difficult, according to Find Your Dream Job guest Kay Kirkman. It begins with making a list of what you’re great at, whether through job or life experience. What is something only you can do? Once you know what you have to offer, Kay suggests using job boards to get an idea of the possibilities, and to decide what jobs you might enjoy and which companies to pursue. 

About Our Guest:

Kay Kirkman is a career coach, speaker, and host of The GenX Career Show. She helps professionals at midlife find their career passion, even if they think they’re too old or it’s too late.

Resources in This Episode: