There Are 10 Core Skill Sets, and Identifying Yours Can Point You to Your Best Job Fit

Photo: Getty Images/Luis Alvarez
Searching for a job is… a job. To attract an offer, you need to make sure your résumé is polished, you nail your interview, and that you are, in general, your best self. But even if you take care to do your due diligence with smart questions for a potential employer, you may find that the role isn't exactly what you bargained for. Zooming way out, sometimes you might even ask yourself if your'e in the right field at all. So how does one ensure they're in the right industry or role? According to a career coach, the 10 core skill sets for jobs can help steer you toward answers.

Experts In This Article
  • Ashley Stahl, resident career expert at SoFi and author of the bestselling book, You Turn: Get Unstuck, Discover Your Direction, Design Your Dream Career.

To start, career coach Ashley Stahl, author of You Turn: Get Unstuck, Discover Your Direction, and Design Your Dream Career, suggests reframing the way you approach a job listing. It's common to focus on the skills listed in the job description and to consider whether you could do the job. Flipping that script to instead focus on your main strength and searching for listings that fit it can lead job seekers to more effective job searches and ultimately land in roles that are a good fit.

“It’s not about 'What is the role?' It’s about 'What is the skill set, and what are the roles that best lend themselves to that skill set?'" Stahl says. "These 10 core skill sets are a general direction that people can use to give them a sense of where they are and where to look in their career."

Here's how it works: Rather than focus on making yourself appealing to hiring managers for available jobs, Stahl wants you to drill down on the skill you're best at doing. It could be writing, or analyzing, or being in motion, or coordinating, for several examples. Then, you'd keep that in mind as a check when you evaluate opportunities.

"It’s not about 'What is the role?' It’s about 'What is the skill set, and what are the roles that best lend themselves to that skill set?'"—Ashley Stahl, career coach and author

Do keep in mind, though, that some jobs may be a good fit for several types of skill sets. For example, one psychologist who is talented at communicating with patients may lead with words (one of the core skill sets), but another may be just as successful performing the same job in a different way, with more analysis (another core skill set).

While you may look at the list of 10 core skill sets for the best job fit below and identify with several, Stahl says people tend to really lead with one. Doing some introspection will help you figure out which one that is. Read on to learn about the core skill sets, and then get intel about how to move forward with whatever best resonates.

The 10 core skill sets, and possible jobs connected with each

1. Words

These people are skilled at using written and spoken words. Think: speakers, writers, content strategists, editors, and others who work in communications fields.

2. Innovation

People who want to build new, transformative entities lead with this skill. Stahl says this includes entrepreneurs, who want autonomy to build their own thing, and "intrapreneurs" who are content building upon someone else’s vision.

3. Building

With this skill, "the way you’re using your mind needs to be through the lens of building," Stahl says. This can include people who physically build something, like a construction worker. Or perhaps web developers who build programs and code.

4. Technology

People with this skill set get excited when fixing or creating new technology, and anything that has to do with technology "just makes complete sense to them," Stahl says.

5. Motion

This skill means reflects someone who likes moving throughout the day and tends to be on their feet. It could include people in the athletic field, or someone who is very physical, like a massage therapist or a physical trainer. Other jobs that a "motion" person might consider are flight attendants and tour guides.

6. Service

Those who lead with this skill want to help others. Roles that would suit someone with this skill set include counselors, social workers, customer-service workers, hospitality workers, and teachers.

7. Coordination

This skill set centers on handling details big and small and executing, Stahl says. Think: office or project management, event planner, logistics, and other types of administration roles.

8. Analysis

This skill is all about dissecting and analyzing information and answering questions to achieve an outcome. Think: doctors, lawyers, intelligence analysts, and researchers.

9. Numbers

Numbers make perfect sense to the people who lead with this skill set, and their best job fits tend to deal with money. Think: bankers, accountants, and financial analysts. There may also be overlap with analysis, Stahl says.

10. Beauty

This core skill set is for those who “want to make art of the world around them,” Stahl says. This can include artists, photographers, food stylists, and graphic designers.

3 tips to help you determine your core skill set

1. Solicit feedback from trusted colleagues, friends, and family

Trusted co-workers and loved ones can be a great sounding board for figuring out where in life you excel. But Stahl warns that listening to the advice of others can be a “slippery slope” to clouding your sense of what you want. You are the one who will ultimately need to do the investigative work behind their answers. Ask them when they've seen you at your best in general and professionally, and take the answers with a grain of salt.

2. Keep a joy journal

Some self-reflection through writing can be illuminating. Stahl advises keeping a “joy journal” for 30 days, which involves writing down the times and activities when you've felt your best and most fulfilled. Put aside a bit of time each day to add to it. After that period, look through your notes for patterns to help you identify your core skill set for jobs.

3. Examine your past jobs

Look for patterns in your résumé regarding what you enjoyed most and were best at doing in your past positions. Stahl, for example, used to work at a preschool and found that she was at ease correcting grammar in the school's marketing materials. It was an early indication of her core skill set of writing.

How to use your core skill set to find work that truly aligns with you

If you're looking for a job or career shift

Stahl recommends using your skill set as a guide when looking at new positions. Keep it in mind as you analyze postings to see what the the job will entail. Having this information in your back pocket can also inspire forays into new-to-you industries and serve as a guide during a career shift.

In your current position

You don't need to be on the job hunt to use the core skill sets for jobs. If you're happy with where you work but feel positions in other departments that align better with your core skill, it's worth a conversation with a manager or higher-up about moving teams, Stahl says.

If that's not possible, Stahl recommends job crafting. This way, you can create ways to utilize your core skill set more directly within your position. "It's really taking initiative in the job you have and the skill set that's your core and coming up with projects in that start to force yourself to get that [core skill set] experience at your job, even if you're not working in your zone of genius," she says.

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