What are your top three skills?

It’s National Skills Day, and a lot of emphasis is likely to go on the development of new skills, especially at a time when the UK’s (& World’s) economies are undergoing an evolution as a result of changing demands due to the pandemic, technological advances and a climate crisis.

But I would say that now is a good time for you to reflect on, and celebrate, the skills you already have.

That might sound easy – but after more than a decade as a career coach, experience tells me that it really is not. That’s because we are often unaware of the skills we have, and those of us who are aware often value them less than the skills we don’t have.

Awareness of your skills

I spend a lot of time helping people prepare for interviews. Questions such as:

  • Tell me about yourself?
  • What are your top three skills?
  • Tell me about a time when you have…

Often leave people at a loss for words.

Why is that?

After all, surely we should be able to talk about these things, it’s just us, no need to revise.

Actually, we tend to be really bad at knowing ourselves – we don’t notice the things that we do automatically, we only notice the things that we struggle to achieve. So if you have a skill in engaging with people, you might not realise, and definitely can’t just explain the process that you follow. If you are great at organising stuff, then the steps you take just flow.

So how can you increase awareness?

One way is to ask those who know us what skills they see us using, how they would describe us, what sort of things they’d ask us to do etc. Make sure that you ask a few people, so you can look for trends in the answers.

Another thing we can do is keep an activity journal – jotting down all the things that we do – this will bring the automatic into the open.

A different approach is to jot down all the things that you’ve done over your career/life to date/last year (you pick) – and put a tick or a cross against those that you’ve enjoyed. This is more difficult as you have to get quite detailed. Say you’ve been waiting on tables in a restaurant, there are lots of activities involved in that – prepping the room, setting the tables, greeting the customers, learning the specials, interacting with front & back of house colleagues etc – it’s like that you’ve enjoyed some & not others. Once you have your list of enjoyed, see what skills are attached to them – problem solving, pleasing clients, analysing trends etc. It’s likely that these are the skills you already have, at least to a certain extent.

Valuing your Skills

Many of us tend to be hardwired to be ambitious, to aspire to something more. And more always means different. I used to have a colleague who was brilliant at organisation, rational thinking, remaining calm in a crisis, diffusing tense situations. But they aspired to be more like their sibling who was spontaneous, unpredictable, restless – to my colleague these were signifiers of ‘fun’ and ‘excitement’, so it tended to mean that they devalued, or even resented the skills that they had.

Learning how to value what we have is difficult – who hasn’t thought that the grass is greener? Perhaps a happiness journal would help, or a place to achieve a valued goal using the skills that they already had would suffice.

More likely, what would at least work in the short term would be to consider not what we would like to be, but what others can value about us now.

Creating a sense of self-worth is important – so let’s start by recognising and celebrating the skills that we already have.


Graham Philpott, Careers Consultant at Henley Business School


If you would like to discuss your skills with a Careers Consultant like Graham, you can book via My Jobs Online. This is open to all current Henley Business School students, as well as any Henley students who have graduated in the last four years.