Realising your skills and strengths

By: Emily Maybanks

Along the same lines as an article I wrote for the Waterfront recently called ‘Thoughts from the mind of a final year student’, in which I explored the overwhelming emotions and experiences associated with being in the final year of my degree, I read an article on The Guardian’s website called ‘Students: how to work out what you’re good at’. This article explores unique ways in which you can find out what you’re good at, or what your strengths and skills are. I was inspired by this article and tried some of the techniques mentioned.

In this article, it says “you should start (according to life coach Carol Ann Rice) by taking a long, hard look at your values,” and that “these are the things that you’re naturally drawn to when you’re at your best.” Now, as someone who struggles to see themselves in a positive light, this was difficult for me to do. However, I did manage to come up with two values that I like about myself, and they are that I am passionate and that I am determined. Other students might find looking at their values a lot easier than I did. I do agree that recognising your own strengths and abilities and characteristics is a good initial step in working out what you are good at. At the end of the day, we are the ones in control of our lives and it’s our own values that are going to get us our dream jobs one day!

It continues with a suggestion of what to do if you’re struggling to nail your own values and that is: “if you’re finding it hard to pinpoint your values, Rice suggests starting with your heroes… Look at the artists, musicians and writers whose work you enjoy,” Admittedly, I couldn’t think of many that have inspired me in the way of musicians, apart from Bastille for their ability to write brilliant songs and sing them amazingly, and Il Divo. Despite being an avid reader all my life, I couldn’t think of many authors whose work has really stuck with me. When looking at my heroes, I chose to look a little closer to home and look at others who’ve inspired me and there’s one person who without a doubt continues to inspire me all the time and she is my A Level French teacher. She inspires me because she’s got an interesting family and linguistic history, her French lessons at school made me want to continue learning the language at University and she’s always supported me, even since we both left school almost 6 years ago now. There are more people who inspire me of course, but my former French teacher will always be top of the list. When I taught last summer, I always tried to incorporate her teaching style with my own.

Later on in the article, it suggests asking family and friends to write down what they think your skills are. I went to town on this and asked a variety of people for lists of what they think my skills are. It was actually a really nice confidence boost to have them come up with things that I would never have thought of as my skills and strengths so to speak. I asked a variety of people what they think my skills are – family, friends, people who have known me for years and also people who have known me for less time, those who I know in a personal capacity and those who I know in a more professional capacity. I think having a wide range of people to do something like this is great because I was left with things that I never thought were skills of mine; responding to criticism and a willingness to improve, for example! Some of the common ones that came up for me include: organised, eager to learn, committed, empathetic, resilient, self-reliant and punctual! I can say that doing this was useful, especially giving me the chance to link these skills back to the jobs and positions of responsibility I have or have had.

Linking this to ‘Thoughts from the mind of a final year student’, where I mentioned having too much in the way of experience, I think – for me anyway – it’s easy to look at your life and the experiences (either work related, academic or life experiences) and recognise them, but it’s more difficult to dig a bit deeper and actually explore what makes you you. Finding this article and then putting the tips into practice was an interesting and exciting way to see what other people think my skills are and then once I sat down and read through these lists of skills, I had some “ooh” moments because they were things that I would never have necessarily thought of.

With all of this being said, and while it is important to have some idea of what you want to do after University, as well as a goal to aim for; it is equally as important to not put too much stress and pressure on yourself when it comes to this sort of thing. Working out what you are good at in a relaxed and enjoyable way is fantastic and a great idea – and I know that by trying some of the things mentioned in the article (especially the skills one), I am better able to recognise and realise what my strengths and skills are. The end of the article also provides a great message of reassurance: “A really important thing to remember is that for most of your life, if not all of your life, you’re going to be a work in progress. You need to take the pressure off. Most people are in a similar position. You have to keep giving yourself positive messages and acknowledge that you are trying your best.”

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