Wondering what your most marketable skills are? Here’s an easy way to figure it out…
Sometimes it is challenging to identify your most marketable skills. When I graduated from college with a degree in economics and psychology, my strongest skill was probably my ability to pass economics and psychology tests… not exactly something marketable.
Fortunately, firms hire people straight out of college for three things: 1) Their potential 2) Their attitude 3) Their baseline knowledge and understanding.
Now, it is true that coming out of college with some specific marketable skills can be helpful, but it’s rare that someone comes straight out of college and goes into a role that they can plug into with little or no training.
In fact, your first job is much more likely to be a training ground for learning your first, truly marketable skill.
For me, that skill was excel, or what finance people refer to as modeling. When I started as a management consultant I knew the very basics of excel, and that was it. Fast forward a year and I could model any sort of economic situation in excel with ease.
Suddenly I had a marketable skill, which that first firm was kind enough to pay me for learning.
It’s crazy isn’t it? Firms actually pay you to develop your skills! You spend 4 years paying a college paying to learn and then businesses pay to teach you!
Now, I mentioned that I didn’t have skills coming into that firm, so you may be wondering why they hired me (or anyone else straight out of school). Well, I believe it is 3 things:
- Your Potential – Hiring firms, especially those looking at early career candidates, hire people based on their potential in addition to their skills today. In other words, if you can demonstrate that you are smart and learn quickly, companies will invest in training you.
- Attitude – People often overlook what may be the most marketable skill of all, which is the drive to work hard, stay positive and take on whatever work you are asked to do. Will this get you an interview? No… but your attitude may get you a job and will be one of the key variables that gets you promoted.
- Your Baseline Knowledge – Here is why your college major matters. You may graduate with a mechanical engineering degree but have no idea how to design an underwater switch. Guess what? Your employer knows that. What they are paying you for is your understanding of how engineering works so that you can apply what you know to this situation.
The key point in all of this is that no matter what role you are in you must constantly be working to develop new skills. You should always think about your compensation as composed of two things:
- The money you get paid
- The marketable skills you learn
The day you stop learning on the job your compensation just went down. It won’t impact you financially today, but it will in the future when you go looking for a new job.
One of the smartest people I ever worked with once said to me that he always looks at what he can learn in a role. In fact, he went on to say that if he can’t figure out a way to develop skills in whatever role he is in, he isn’t working hard enough… there is always opportunity.
This brings me to a second point…
How do you identify your marketable skills?
I believe the easiest way to identify your marketable skills is simple. Just ask yourself a couple questions:
- What problems you can solve for an individual or a company?
- How important is that to that individual or company (in other words, what would they pay to solve it)?
Start with making a list of problems you can solve. For example:
- Figure out which business opportunities to pursue
- Get potential customers in the door
- Determine the financial impact of a decision
- Etc, etc
Then consider how valuable these skills are to a prospective employer. (This is really easy if you have a job description for roles you are considering.)
That’s it. Figuring out your marketable skills is as simple as understanding the problems you can solve for a company. -And if you are unsure what problems a company may have, do some online research about the company or speak to someone who works there (See Career Coaching: Networking for introverts).