What Are Skills? (With Tips on How to Improve Them)

Updated June 9, 2023

In order to complete tasks successfully, you should have knowledge, ability and competence. These qualities, known as skills, can be developed to help you gain expertise in a specific area. This expertise can translate into greater success in your career and other areas of life. In this article, we provide an in-depth look at skills as they pertain to the workforce.

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What are skills?

Skill is a term that encompasses the knowledge, competencies and abilities to perform operational tasks. Skills are developed through life and work experiences and they can also be learned through study. There are different types of skills and some may be easier to access for some people than others, based on things like dexterity, physical abilities and intelligence.

Skills can also be measured, and levels determined by skill tests. Most jobs require multiple skills, and likewise, some skills will be more useful for certain professions than others.

Related: 3 Best Resume Formats in 2019 With Examples

Example of skills

There are several skill categories that you might decide to develop. Below are examples of types of skills and the kinds of competencies you could gain by mastering a skill type:

  • Job skills

  • Leadership skills

  • Organizational skills

  • Life skills

Job skills

Employers look for candidates with skills that can add to the workplace to ensure a job is performed properly and the worker is able to adapt to handling increased responsibilities. Job skills include:

  • Verbal communication

  • Nonverbal communication

  • Written communication

  • Persuasion

  • Negotiation

  • Technical skills

  • Organization

  • Accounting

  • Finance skills

  • Customer service

  • Mentoring and coaching

  • Maturity

  • Patience

  • Ethics

  • Confidence

  • Reliability

  • Honesty

  • Presentation

  • Integrity

  • Interviewing

  • Diplomacy

  • Ability to meet deadlines

  • Scheduling

  • Reporting

  • Time management

Leadership skills

The following skills fall under the category of leadership:

  • Decision making

  • Delegating

  • Critical thinking

  • Strategic planning

  • Conflict resolution

  • People managing

  • Solving problems

  • Offering sound advice

  • Active listening

  • Administrative skills

  • Attention to detail

  • Rapport building

  • Holding productive meetings

  • Business intelligence skills

  • Analyzing data

  • Collaboration

  • Team leadership

  • Developing employees

  • Prioritizing

  • Budgeting

  • Change management

  • Innovation

  • Business agility

  • Providing feedback

  • Professional observation

  • Imagination

Organizational skills

In business environments, leaders must have the ability to organize both inputs and corresponding outcomes. Some organizational skills include that help with this include:

  • Categorizing data

  • Coordinating

  • Project management

  • Setting goals

  • Information analysis

  • Digital competency

  • Ability to follow directions

  • Reasoning skills

  • Logic

  • Reading comprehension

  • Multitasking

  • Implementation skills

  • Productivity

  • Appointment management

  • Event coordination

  • Planning milestones

  • Assessment and evaluation

  • Design skills

  • Organization of thoughts

  • Filing and record-keeping

  • Office management

  • Resource delegation

  • Inventory

  • Developmental planning

  • Data processing

Life Skills

Skills are also transferable between jobs, life events and situations. Some personal life skills include:

  • Cooperation

  • Curiosity

  • Perseverance

  • Communication

  • Adaptability

  • Driving

  • Studying

  • Making a household budget

  • Balancing accounts

  • Basic finance skills

  • Creating a grocery list

  • Cleaning and tidying

  • Organizing the home

  • Laundry

  • Making an organized list

  • Shopping for yourself and others

  • Parenting

  • Painting

  • Empathy

  • Creativity

  • Initiative

  • Flexibility

  • Staying motivated

  • Managing stress

  • Sense of humor

How to improve skills

Improving your skills provides tremendous benefits in both your professional and personal lives. Improving your skills can open new doors to better opportunities. There are a few steps you can take to improve your skills:

  1. Make a list of the skills you wish to improve

  2. Dedicate yourself to improving your skills with investments

  3. Set honest goals and milestones

  4. Get a coach or mentor

  5. Have a plan for improving the skill

  6. Get some support

  7. Monitor your progress

  8. Have fun with the process

1. Make a list of the skills you wish to improve

Some skills are in more demand than others. Before you begin, make sure that your efforts are worthwhile with a skill that you will use. You can do this by making a list of all the skills that you need to enhance your life and career.

2. Dedicate yourself to improving your skills with investments

Understand why you are improving your skills, what motivates you and be prepared to make investments of time or money in skill development and training.

3. Set honest goals and milestones

Be honest about your skill level and realistic chances of improvement and create skill development timelines. Set honest and reliable goals that you are likely to be able to hit along the way.

4. Get a coach or mentor

This could be as simple as following the people that you admire who are good at doing what to wish to do. You may go as far as contacting them, when appropriate, through a networking relationship or business social networking website or professional organization.

5. Have a plan for improving the skill

Once you've established goals and milestones, you need a plan to enact them. This could include breaking down skill development into modules, or specific training initiatives or practice.

6. Get some support

Having a strong support system is a great asset when it comes to developing skills. Think about participating in activities through a professional organization, leadership training classes or other events that connect you with people who can support you.

7. Monitor your progress

Develop a system for feedback. You can record yourself, ask others, or benchmark your performance against suitable models.

8. Have fun with the process

Skill development and learning new things can be an enjoyable experience. Make the most of it by having fun along the way.

Related: Nonverbal Communication Skills: Definition and Examples

Skills in the workplace

The workplace provides opportunities to practice and improve on the job skills. Some highly desirable skills for the workplace include the following:

  • Problem-solving. Running into problems is almost a certainty in rapidly changing environments. You will be valued more with your ability to efficiently solve problems.

  • Communication. Others need to understand and appreciate the information and messages that you transfer. This includes the content as well as the intent.

  • Teamwork. Although there may be separate units, businesses function as a team. Your ability to work within the team becomes part of your job performance.

  • Time-management. Being able to manage your time when performing multiple tasks is also a determinant of your job performance.

  • Organizing and planning. Your job becomes much easier with proper organizing and planning of activities.

  • Learning. The ability to earn helps not only you but your employer, as you are able to add value by performing new tasks.

  • Decision-making. In any business, there are decisions made daily that affect how the business operates. The better you are at making good decisions, the more valued you become to the employer.

Read more: How to Write a Cover Letter (With Tips and Examples)

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How to highlight skills

Employers are looking for evidence that your skills meet the company's requirements. When highlighting skills on your resume, you need more than a list of your qualifications and accomplishments.

Skills on a resume

Here a few steps to follow to highlight your skills:

  1. Customize your resume for each position

  2. Include the keywords that match the job description

  3. Describe your skills with examples

  4. Include appropriate soft skills that you believe to be needed for the job

  5. Include quantities with your achievements

  6. Include strong verbs and action words

  7. Your narrative should be proud but not boastful

Skills for a cover letter

The skills you include in your cover letter should match those that you collect from the job description as well as your basic job skills: How you highlight your skills depends on your situation and the job for which you are applying.

If you are changing jobs or industries, you can wish to introduce a brief narrative of your transferable skills. The strongest way is to highlight your past achievements as they relate to the job for which you are applying.

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