From activity to accomplishment, skills follow a path of natural evolution. The skills you possess, or develop, have likely moved along the same progression: from activity, to ability, to accomplishment, to skill.
I was listening to a TED Talk on careers when Larry Smith, an economist, started drawing some conclusions about how a person’s passion comes from their interests. This piqued my interest and, minus the topic of passion, made me want to share a post on more concrete ways for you to think about skills and interests.
Many career professionals will define and tell you to act upon skills differently than interests. Skills are usually considered to be more important and have higher value than interests. I understand why having this perspective applies to HR&D and hiring managers. However, this post is for applicants and job seekers. Before you read on, please know your audience. It pays to skew any conversations you have on careers with potential employers according to these biases (i.e., talk skills and accomplishments, not interests) and understand why hiring managers act this way.
Back to how it pertains to you. I think it helps to view skills and interests as interrelated and connected to careers. I consider skills and interests to be bidirectional and you should too. From an applicant standpoint, who is trying to figure out strengths and direction of career, it doesn’t matter which comes first or drives the other.
Skills come out of activities. Yet, a skill is not an activity just for the sake of activities. At some point you will find, discover or realize that activities turn into abilities. This can happen several ways. An activity becomes an ability through practice, application, study, exposure, manipulation and pursuit. When an ability turns into some form of accomplishment it is a skill. The foundation of a skill is your ability to do something. When you exercise an ability and it leads to an accomplishment it becomes a skill.
Here’s an example. I like to read. In general reading is an activity. For me, it’s different than an activity. Through practice, exposure and application I have developed a certain ability to read. While I occasionally read for enjoyment, reading is more intentional for me. I pick and choose what I read. I assimilate what I read and apply it. These are abilities I have. Reading has a purpose. I read to learn and want to apply any knowledge I gain to pursue opportunities, which I have done several times before to start new ventures or projects that solve problems. These are forms of accomplishments. As I move reading from an activity to an ability to an accomplishment it becomes a skill I have.
When planning any career moves and considering your strengths, use the interrelationship between skills and interests to your advantage. It just might free you up to think more completely and, by clearing your head, make better decisions.