Leverage Your Core

skillsNo.  This is not the beginning of a workout or strength training article.

This is about who you are as a person.  As a professional.  About the skills you possess and the importance of leveraging your core skills.

But first, a quick story.

Earlier in my career, I had been doing very well in a particular field and was contemplating changing directions to broaden my experiences and perspective.  During a lunch with one of my mentors, I asked him how he had made the moves he did in his career across industry areas and leadership roles within different areas of responsibility.

He smiled as simply said, “Core skills translate.”

When I gave him that single raised eyebrow inquisitive look, he continued.  “Your core skills, often your soft skills, are necessary in every role that you’ll enter.  Your ability to communicate and influence effectively, to collaborate and negotiate,  to rally people, build trust, and inspire, to think critically, make decisions and to connect people and ideas – these are the things that you take with you to each role.  These are the things that make you valuable as a leader – regardless of the field or job title.”

When I asked about the knowledge needed to function in that new role, he said, “Sure, experience and knowledge in the field is important, BUT – as long as you possess the capacity and strong desire to learn – and learn quickly – your core skills are more important to me than your hard skills and knowledge bases.  I can teach the latter easily.  It’s more difficult to teach the former.”

This was one of those conversations that made me step back and really think about my future differently.

Often, when looking at a new job opportunity or potential shift in our career, we take stock of our hard skills, knowledge base, and experiences and they become the filter by which we say, “can I” or “should I” go after this new role.

But this shouldn’t be the case.

Rather, I would challenge that we should take inventory of the core (soft) skills that we possess and bring them to the forefront in determining whether or not we could or should do something.

Now, this isn’t to say that hard skills and knowledge bases aren’t important, because they are.  What I want you to walk away with today is the knowledge that your core skills are important and translate broadly. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself solely based upon your current hard skills and knowledge bases.


So, as a result of the conversation with my mentor, I put together this quick action list to help me as I began my own search for “what’s next” and wanted to share it with you:

  • Take stock of your own soft skills.  If you don’t know what they are – search “soft skills” on the web and get a list.  Then begin picking out the ones you do well and maybe not so well (good to know yourself fully).  There are also soft skill tests out on the web that can help you identify and measure your skill levels.
  • Ask trusted others. Get outside opinion about your soft skills.  Trusted individuals will hopefully tell you the truth about what they see.   They may validate or invalidate some of your own selections.  And, they may also share some with you that you didn’t see as potential strengths.  I recommend asking at least 3 people (not all from the same team or work area) so you gain the benefit of different perspectives.
  • Identify your top strengths.  Write them down.  What are your top 3-5?  These become a great place to start when it comes to developing the story of who you are and what you’ll bring to the table.  Putting them on paper begins to help you solidify your story.
  • Look for leverage.  When looking at a potential new role, identify where your core skills match up with what they are looking for and be prepared to talk about these. The job description may reveal some of these.  BUT DON’T STOP THERE – also check their website or other collateral and look for their missional or values statements.  Are there any of your core skills listed there that you could highlight?  Leverage your network to find out about how the company functions or what they value in skill sets.
  • Develop translatable stories.  Put together succinct stories about your previous experiences that help highlight your core skills in a way that they could see you in the new role doing the same for their company.  You want them to be able to visualize you in that seat.  The problem/action/result framework often works very well.

While this list isn’t the be-all and end-all, I hope that it provides you some framework in thinking through your core skill set and translatable skills as you look to venture forward.  They are important!  As my mentor said, “Core skills translate.”


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