Know your skills
Know your skills intro
Many students ask us what they can do at university to help them build their CV. One of these things is to build a broad range of skills. To help you decide which skills to focus on, it’s useful to reflect on what you’ve done and identify what skills you already have. You’ll have many skills, especially technical skills, from your degree programme. You’ll also have gained transferable skills during your time at Imperial, skills like networking, professionalism, teamworking and communication. All roles you may be considering in your future will require a mix of both technical and transferable skills.
Start with the Know Your Skills video, which is an overview on how to break down your experiences and reflect on them. Then use the rest of the tools on this page to continue that process.
No matter what stage you are at in your degree or your career planning, understanding what skills you currently have will help you figure out what skills you may need to develop. Once you know this you can use the resources from exploring options to analyse what skills you may need for specific roles and develop a plan on how to do this which can be added to your Plan: Me. Understanding what skills you enjoy using can also help you to figure out what career you may like to pursue.
Once you get to the stage of applying for roles, you will need you to explain how you know you have the skills to carry out what your future employer/supervisor needs you to do. You may be asked to create a tailored CV, a cover letter or to talk about these skills during an interview.
Analyse your skills
Use the practical tools in the drop down content below along with the downloadable Skills audit template to analyse your skills. Similar to self-reflection there is no right way to do this so we have provided you with different ideas so you can find one the one that works best for you.
A skills audit is where you use structured self-reflection to identify what skills you have gained from experiences you have had. There are two main ways of doing a skills audit however they both start by creating a table (in whatever format you like, word, excel, pen and paper).
The first audit process is as follows and you can download a Skills audit template:
- In the first column, write down a list of skills you would like to have, or need to prove for a role you’re interested in. You can get inspiration from reading job/research advertisements, the exploring options (LINK) website or the list of key skills on the CV and resume page.
- In the second column, rate yourself from one to five (five being very competent, one being not all competent) on how good you think you are at that skill.
- In the final column write down specific times when you’ve used that skill from your experiences. These can be during your education, your work experience, your hobbies or interests or any other time during your life.
The second way to do a skills audit is as follows and you can download a Skills audit template:
- In the first column, write down an experience you’ve had. Make it as specific as possible (e.g. a group activity or a project, an event you helped organise).
- In the second column, identify the skills that you had to use to during the experience
- In the third column, match the skills you’ve identified with the specific part of the experience when you used them.
You could use the STAR framework explained below to help you breakdown your experiences.
Not only can you use your skills audit to assess where you’d like to develop skills, it can form the basis of bullet points within your CV and other application documents.
To break down experiences you’ve had to explain your skills and strengths, you could use the STAR framework – a common interview preparation framework for describing your skills using examples from your past experience.
- S = Scenario (where were you? Set the scene)
- T = Task (what were you asked to do?)
- A = Action (what did you do? Why did you do this?)
- R = Results (how do you know if your actions were successful? What did you learn from the experience?)
You can use this structure to reflect on specific experiences then write down the either the whole example or you could pull out the actions you’ve identified and link it to a skill. You could use this in conjunction with the skills audit above. See more about using the STAR framework in the competency questions tab of the application section .
Work with Me document
As opposed to identifying all of the skills you have, you may wish to focus on the skills that you do well. One way of doing this is to create a ‘work with me’ document. Some employers/supervisor use this tool with their staff, which they can choose to share if they want to, to help teams work better with each other.
A ‘Work with Me’ document typically answers three key questions:
- What am I good at?
- What am I less confident with?
- How can colleagues work with me effectively?
As a self-reflection exercise, challenge yourself to complete the following prompts:
- Brief introduction: no more than 3 lines about what you pride yourself on
- What I’m good at: Examples might include technical skills like programming languages, research abilities or transferable skills like ‘generating ideas’, or ‘explaining science concepts to other people’.
- What I’m less confident with/don’t enjoy: Be careful not to be too self-critical if you intend to share this with anyone, but for your personal records you could include areas you would like to improve on. For example, ‘I struggle to say no to people’, or ‘I’m not good at making important decisions under a lot of pressure’.
- How to work with me: Some of these might be practical things, like ‘give me time to prepare before coming into a big meeting’, or ‘give me feedback on things I need to improve so I can fix mistakes early’. Alternatively, these could be personal preferences that can help new team members get to know you, like ‘I take my tea with oat milk and no sugar’, or ‘talk to me about classic science fiction novels – my favourite genre!’
If you are struggling to decide what kind of job might suit your skills, you could try a skills/likes matrix.
- Pull together a list of all the skills you can think of – be specific, so instead of ‘communication’ think about all the ways you communicate, like handling customer complaints or explaining topics to your online tutoring clients.
- Next split a blank page into four segments representing ‘skills you like using and find easy’, ‘skills you like using and find difficult’, ‘skills you dislike using and find easy’ and ‘skills you dislike using and find difficult’.
- Categorise your skills accordingly and use the outcome to support your decision-making when you find opportunities to apply for.