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Connecting UW Students and Employers

Assess Your Skills

Please note: If you are already in a major, your home career services office may have major-specific career resources to aid you in your search. Search by your major or career word for the appropriate career services office:

Haven't chosen a major? The Cross-College Advising Service and Exploration Center can help you find a fit.

Skill Areas
Provide Specific Examples
Skills Employers Seek
Identify Accomplishments
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®

Skill Areas

Spend time assessing your personal/professional skills and strengths-this is the basis of any job search

The strengths you identify in thorough skills-assessment form the foundation of your job search. This foundation leads to effective resume development, letter writing, and examples you will use in the interview. Start by carefully considering the following questions:

Only after reflection and honest responses to these questions will you be successful in the job search-because this understanding leads to your decisions regarding resume development, effective interview talking points, selection and research of viable employers, and overall confidence as you learn to market your value to others.

To conduct an effective self-assessment, use many methods, tools, and resources to develop a list of experiences, successful projects, and activities that have helped shape your interests and development. Look beyond the simple listing of your degree(s), coursework, and experiences. Identify your unique skills and patterns of success. List those things you are good at and are passionate about - not those skills you feel you should have. Consider specific work on projects and coursework that provide you with satisfaction, challenge, and that inspire your enthusiasm. Consider your strengths in problem solving, assessing, and summarizing complex issues. Consider situations in which others compliment you on your abilities and strengths. This assessment forms the beginning stages of identification and articulation of skill and strength development.

Example Skill Areas

Coaches others
Coordinates projects
Demonstrates patience
Develops prototypes
Diplomatically resolves issues
Follows a good leader
Follows through
Imagines new methods
Implements a goal
Interprets a complex plan
Interprets data
Makes hard decisions
Manages crisis effectively
Manages time well
Meets deadlines
Meets others easily
Organizes others to help
Physical stamina
Procedure development
Provides constructive feedback
Reliably meets goals
Resolves and mediates
Sees possibilities
Sets goals/priorities
Solves problems
Speaks publicly
Synthesizes information
Takes reasonable risks
Resolves conflict
Team player

Provide Specific Examples

For each skill, answer the following questions in writing. Yes, in writing! Write a detailed response to each question, using one or more skills. Read the descriptions thoroughly for accuracy and detail. Now, practice responding to them - out loud!

How have you helped a team reach goals? How did you research a complex system? How do you go about solving complex problems? What are your strengths? How would others describe you? In what situations have you shown persistence? What are your short-term goals? Tell me about yourself. What motivates you to do your best work? In what area do you need to improve?

Now, condense each skill development set of details into a 1-2-minute response. Be concise, yet descriptive. Describe a specific, real-world example to indicate to a recruiter how you developed a specific skill into a strength. Any response is a good response as long as you experienced it, learned from it, or developed a skill as a result.

Skills Employers Seek

Source: Who's Going to Run General Motors, Kenneth C. Green and Daniel T. Seymour, 1990

A college degree, in and of itself, isn't enough to succeed in today's world. It won't enable one to sell computer equipment, understand new business opportunities in domestic or foreign markets, or negotiate a cooperative agreement with partners. One cannot evoke the magic powers of a college degree to supervise a staff of twenty people, to create a marketing plan, or to develop and manage a new product launch involving millions of dollars. Students should work to develop skills, insights, capabilities, and experience as they are grouped together below:

The Great Communicator
Speaks effectively to other individuals, writes factual material clearly & concisely, reads with comprehension & speed, questions effectively & writes persuasively, speaks effectively in groups, listens intently & objectively, explains concepts well, critiques, edits, proofreads, expresses feelings appropriately.

The Team Player
Is able to influence others, negotiates compromises, withstands & resolves conflict, understands feelings of others, encourages debate, organizes & delegates tasks, motivates & develops other people, appreciates/rewards people's efforts.

The Technology Master
Is familiar with major hardware components, uses software packages, uses information to aid problem solving, makes graphic presentations, accesses information from many sources, transforms raw data into useful information, analyzes data, communicates using electronic means.

The Problem Solver
Defines problems & Brings reason to bear, exhibits intellectual curiosity, thinks abstractly & reflectively, distinguishes between fact & opinion, proposes & evaluates solutions, possesses an open, receptive mind, defends a conclusion rationally.

The Foreign Ambassador
Gets along with other people, is knowledgeable of foreign cultures, speaks foreign languages, maintains openness to different ideas, develops a global, not ethnocentric perspective, is aware of cultural differences, adjusts to new conditions, has no fixed prejudices, is curious about new situations, understands the interdependence of nations in a global economy.

The Change Maker
Faces the unknown without fear, develops a healthy, constructive nonconformity, maintains a sense of imagination & curiosity, assumes moderate risks, takes responsibility for successes & failures, tackles problems with unrepentant optimism, develops a strong self-image, accepts change as a challenge, overcomes the fear of failure, sees things through.

The 21st Century Leader
Articulates a vision, shows willingness to accept responsibility, understands followers & their needs, demonstrates need & drive to achieve, motivates others, accepts & learns from criticism, identifies critical issues, uses tact, diplomacy & discretion, acts decisively, behaves confidently & courageously.

Identify Accomplishments

Another way to help determine your strengths is to identify your accomplishments. Identify the skills used in these accomplishments. Closely following skills assessment is a thorough review of your accomplishments. As you might imagine, this exercise is not simply a listing exercise; it requires a thorough, thoughtful, analytical review of what you personally know your accomplishments to have been throughout your academic and employment development.

This is a time for you to brag a bit. Don't be humble and don't be arrogant. Simply consider events and accomplishments that have brought you to this point in time. What would employers need to know about you prior to making an employment decision? What do you explicitly need to tell them about the way you tackle problems, set goals, overcome obstacles, find your own way, become recognized, define your life choices, stay focused, and try new ideas and strategies?

In developing this list and the specific examples of each accomplishment, it is important to realize that you are not trying to be someone else. Each person has a story to tell. And yours is important to an employer. The difficult challenge for most is to discover it. Consider the following situations. In each case, the student may not realize his/her accomplishments. But the accomplishments/skills developed are definitely present. See for yourself.

How To Say It

Skill: Strong time-management skills, multi-tasking, and maturity: I have sole custody of my teenage sister, with no family in this country. Therefore, all my decisions include consideration of her welfare. As I schedule classes, accept cooperative education assignments, and develop a budget, I consider the effect on her care and education. While this is difficult, I have learned the importance of setting high goals for myself while caring for others. Using strong time-management skills, hard work and persistence, I have built a good life for both of us—something I see as a great accomplishment. The maturity I have developed will enable me to make strong contributions to your company, as well as provide a framework upon which I can tackle multiple problems simultaneously.

Skill: Smart risk-taker, confidence in decision-making and in solving problems: I have forged my own path. There are no engineers in my family or close circle of friends. In fact, my parents are hard-working blue collar employees of a local manufacturing plant. Applying to colleges was a challenge and struggle for me because I had little assistance. Although they supported me to take the risk, my family could provide no experiential advice and little monetary support. From this experience, I have developed confidence in my skills to complete research, make decisions, take risks and steadfastly focus on goals. My greatest accomplishment is earning my degree in mechanical engineering—including all the detours and distractions along the way. I will be an excellent problem-solver for your company. I can overcome adversity, set good examples for others and meet my goals confidently.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®

Source: Introduction to Type in Organizations, Sandra Krebs Hirsh and Jean M. Kummerow, 3rd edition, Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc., 1998.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® is a self-report questionnaire designed to help people understand their innate behavioral preferences along four dichotomies. The theory behind the MBTI® indicates that everyone has a natural preference for one of two opposites of four scales or dichotomies. The Indicator® is based on years of theory, reliability and validity testing, and application. It is the most often-used measure of personality traits and preferences.

The distinction of the MBTI® over other instruments is that it is designed to indicate equally valuable preferences and is virtually self-confirmed. Interpretations of results are a joint process between the person taking the Indicator® and a qualified professional.

Only after understanding and reaching agreement with the results do you move on to learn how your preferences or Type impact your comfort with careers, relationships with others, within organizations, and personal growth.

The MBTI® instrument is recognized as one of the most reliable measurements of personality type as a means to gain insight to enrich relationships, aid decision-making processes, and increase one's sense of self-worth and personal competence. This resource will enhance your ability to identify strengths and tendencies, explore work relationships, understand why you are more comfortable in some situations and less confident in others, relate to others, and interview confidently.

how do you obtain your energy?
Extraversion (E)
Preference for drawing energy from the outside world of people, activities and things impressions
Introversion (I)
Preference for drawing energy from one's internal world of ideas, emotions and impressions
how do you perceive the world?
Sensing (S)
Preference for taking in information through the five senses and noting what actually is
Intuition (N)
Preference for taking in information through a "sixth" sense and noticing what might be
how do you make decisions?
Thinking (T)
Preference for organizing and structuring information to decide in a logical, objective way
Feeling (F)
Preference for organizing and structuring information to decide in a personal, values-oriented way
how do you live in the world?
Judging (J)
Preference for living a planned and organized life
Perceiving (P)
Preference for living a spontaneous and flexible life

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