Skills Versus Job Training

Group of construction workersNewspaper columnist and career consultant Amy Lindgren has an interesting take on job training.  

Job training, she writes, only "approximates" what employers need and that most jobs require talents well beyond what any class or certificate program offers.

"Employers hire workers to DO something, not to BE something," she writes. "That is, they need you to perform tasks, not to simply be certified whatever. Obvious, but easy to forget."

Her approach? If you need a license to do a job, get one. If being certified might help you find a job, take short-term classes and look for contract assignments or other hands-on experiences. Look for volunteer opportunities. Or take on a few do-it-yourself gigs to reveal your talents in a field.

And do not undertake a skills-building effort in the dark. Talk to employers, says Lindgren. "By identifying the organizations you'd like to work for and then speaking with managers about the skills they need, you'll be able to focus on the true goal, which is to be skilled and employable, not simply trained."

Four Steps Toward Identifying Your Skills 

These simple steps will help you zero in on your most important skills, gained in all areas of life, not just on the job.

  • Step One: Write the title of an employment-related activity. Focus on those activities that potentially demonstrate skill and experience relative to employment. You may get these titles from skills you gained while working for community organizations, volunteer activities and employers.
  • Step Two: List the tasks involved in performing this activity. Tasks are the basic functions of an activity.
  • Step Three: List the skills involved in accomplishing each task. Be sure to include job, self-management and transferable skills.
  • Step Four: Network with friends, associates and family. Ask them what skills they see that you have.

Developing Skills While Looking for a Job 

You should consider spending time developing new skills through volunteering. Don't volunteer, of course, only for that reason. Yet be mindful that community organizations need help, and you have plenty to offer while you try out new career options, experiences and, potentially, leadership roles.

Every community usually has an organization that helps people find volunteer opportunities. Churches, synagogues and mosques frequently are aware of volunteer opportunities in the community.

In larger cities, the openings are fairly numerous in most cases. Check your community newspaper, too, because many have a weekly feature listing volunteer opportunities in your neighborhood or your city.

In the Twin Cities, the following organizations are set up to match volunteers: Volunteer Match, Greater Twin Cities United Way and Hands on Twin Cities.

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