Whenever I’m recommended for a project, a colleague wanders over to my little cube and says “I need your unique set of skills.” It’s almost become a joke around the office that that’s the phrase used. I’m not going to lie though. That sentence makes me feel a little bit bad a** and very proud. I immediately get Liam Neeson’s voice in my head when he’s on the phone in the movie Taken.
“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you’re looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very short career. Skills that make me a nightmare for projects like this.”
Yeah, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but I do love to hear that “unique set of skills” phrase. While I like to believe they’re talking about my beautiful smile, friendly and outgoing personality, and my ability to charm the pants off of the people I meet (egotistical much?), I know they actually just want someone who loves research, can write concisely and quickly, and doesn’t cry at the mere site of data. Hey, all still fine with me!
Now, my “unique set of skills” is going to be very different from many of you. You might be awesome at program planning, therapy, architecture, teaching youth, or building mobile phone apps. Your skills could literally be anything under the sun that you excel at. But here’s what’s really important. You have to use them and you have to make sure people know that you have them. Here are 3 tips on utilizing your unique skill set to help you stand out in the office!
Figure out your skill and use it: I didn’t always know research was my strong suit (heh, you like that use of the blog name, right?). Throughout my entire life I swore I was going to be a therapist. I dabbled in research in college, and I admittedly did very well and enjoyed it, but even then I swore my life to client contact. I even went so far as to apply to Clinical PhD programs. Thankfully, I never got accepted and instead entered a Master of Social Work program. Here, I was further introduced to research through my graduate assistantship, but still insisted therapy was the way to go. Then, after one horrific client during my first year internship it became strikingly clear. Research was my thing, not therapy, and I needed to stop trying to pretend I was something I wasn’t. Once I figured that out, the rest was history!
So, regardless of where you are right now, take a deep look at what you’re doing and where you want to be. What skills do you have and truly enjoy? Think long and hard about this because it usually isn’t too clear at first.
Don’t be afraid to learn a new skill: Sometimes you only have part of the equation you need. For example, while I was always really good at research and writing, I needed to learn how to use Microsoft Excel and SPSS statistical software to really reach my full potential. Don’t be afraid to learn new things or try out a new skill on your journey. Maybe you’re very crafty and always wanted to be a sculptor, but you’ve only ever painted. Well, time to visit your local art studio and see if there are any classes available in sculpting. If you are not willing to expand on your skills and create a unique set of abilities it can be hard to stand out sometimes. Take the leap and learn something new!
Let people know where you excel and ask for specific projects related to those skills: Once you’ve found your skill set that you excel at, let people know! Don’t be afraid to ask for projects related to these skills. Once one person knows how capable you are at completing certain projects they will spread the word about what an awesome job you do. Then, more people will come and ask you for help too! That’s how I’ve become known as the girl with the unique set of skills (not to be confused with he who must not be named. Yeah, I just pulled out a Harry Potter pun). In other words, be your own best marketing agent by taking initiative to get the word out. The rest will surely follow.
My unique set of skills revolve around research, writing, and data. Sometimes they even dabble in being the crafty colleague after I managed to pull off a mostly DIY wedding. What are your skills?