Enter Your Inner Archive: How to flesh out the “skills” section of your resume

Most recruiting sites ask candidates to include any skills that they may want to share with a future employer.  Suddenly what should be the simplest section of your profile becomes a daunting and stressful process.  What skills?  Doesn’t everyone know Microsoft Word; how am I different?!

Marketable skills pop up in the most unlikely places.  The trick to discovering yours is to let go of the conventional definition of the word.  Often, we approach the skills section of an application with a narrow perspective and stick to what we believe an employer would want- Excel, PowerPoint, SPSS, etc.  What about the lessons learned during your semester studying in Italy- perhaps you picked up a basic knowledge of the language?  Or what about all those babysitting jobs during your summers off, surely this has cultivated advanced negotiation skills (few adults can match the negotiation skills of a child who wants cookies before dinner).

Once you are open and truthful about your life experiences, the skills section of your profile will quite literally write itself.  Skills do not need to be acquired in a traditional office environment.  One of the skills that I am proudest of possessing is that of peer mediation.  This is not something that I’ve learned throughout my traditional career, but a skill that I polished during my time a resident assistant in college.

Yes, the position of resident assistant could be considered a “job,” but certainly not in the traditional sense.  For two years I worked to maintain the delicate balance between my position as a campus employee and my life as a student.  I could not go home at the end of the day to escape my job, I lived at my place of work and my subordinates were my friends.  I found myself in sticky situations of morals and ethics- one of my best friends (and the guy that I kind-of sort-of had a crush on)  was caught drinking underage by myself and campus security, do I let him slide because he’s my friend, or report the infraction because it’s my job?

I’ll spare you the end of this somewhat generic story, but suffice it to say that this was a situation that I faced fairly often.  Constantly being at battle with my conscience and my desires should be worth something, right?  I introduce unto you the skills of leadership and peer mediation, the two greatest forms of compensation I could ever have received.

So get creative when you’re writing that skills section!  The level of payment does not in any way diminish the quality of the skills that you have attained.  Marketable skills may be cultivated at home, at work, at school, and even in social activities.  The key is finding what it is that you are good at and using that skill to your advantage.  For me, this meant tapping into a college job and recognizing that it helped me to grow as a person and cultivate skills that some VPs would be jealous of!  Many of our experiences are rich with potential, but are not top-of-mind during the employment search.  Don’t sell yourself short, mull over those past experiences and breathe new life into your skills list today!