Do you find identifying your own competence challenging?

Sometimes seeing something up close can be hard. Your own expertise can feel like it lacks focus, and analysing it correctly requires an “ah-hah” moment.

You might have pinned down the skills you have gained from education, training and work experience, but you also need to recognize the capabilities that your personality gives you. Now is a good time to learn to look at yourself kindly with an outsider’s eyes!

Vocalizing and visualizing your skills in advance gives you clarity for steps such as job applications. You could also call it the cornerstone of career planning. When you get a good grasp of your competence, you also improve your self-confidence, self-appreciation and positive energy.

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Start off by categorizing your competence

You can start by envisioning the different areas of your competence as follows:

  1. Professional competence(education, work experience, skills developed through study and internships)
  2. General professional skills (communication and team skills, IT skills, project management, self-leadership)
  3. Personal strengths and capabilities (original ways of thinking, style of interaction, problem-solving and learning capability)

Identifying your skills in the professional competence area might but the easiest, but also note the other areas that make up your personality. In addition, you can do yourself a kindness by understanding that your competence is not always just about performance or achievements. Sometimes a job requires a certain kind of flow that comes from more general professional skills or personal strengths and capabilities.

For example, are you a practical doer or more of a theoretical thinker? How do you want to interact with others: do you want to advise and direct, to work independently or in a group? Do you want to take responsibility for operations or would you prefer to leave a decisive role to others? Are you enthusiastic about developing things or do you prefer to follow tried and tested instructions?

It’s also a good idea to examine what’s happening right now in the world of work and compare your competence with skills that are now and will be appreciated in the future. Could your portfolio contain understanding of digitalization, accessibility and diversity, responsibility issues, work with the public or customer understanding, or even competence that promotes links between different fields? Bear in mind that surprising combinations of skills can turn out to be strengths that distinguish you.

You can draw a skills map for yourself with your core competence in the centre and the complementary competence areas on the edges.

How can you visualize your competence?

The very fact that you try to evaluate yourself just as you are helps you see your competence. Don’t measure yourself competitively against others. Instead, relax and focus on your strong suits.

You can start by thinking about things you have got good feedback on, the things you enjoy and the kinds of activities that go well for you. We usually get a good mood and feel engaged with work in the areas where we are particularly strong. So, what tasks do you enjoy doing and derive joy from? What things would you for work just for the joy of doing them?

Thinking about your personal values and things you appreciate may also help you find important areas of your own competence.

You may also gain some good insight by thinking about your latent skills areas: is it possible you’ve got used to taking some of your skills for granted? You may notice competence like this in situations where you can do something others can’t. You can think about what kinds of issues you’re able to advise others in or what kinds of things people ask you for advice on.

You can ask a colleague, fellow student or friend for their perspective. That may reveal surprising new sides of your competence. On an internship, it is worth plucking up the courage to ask your intern coordinator for feedback!

How do you find the right forms of expression?

Finding the words to communicate your competence requires a little thought. You can use online personality tests or look for words that describe your competence in job ads that interest you, for example.

Telling the story of your own competence out loud also helps you analyse it. When you speak, you probably express yourself concisely and use naturally expressive words — try it and see! Perhaps recording your story as audio could be a good idea.

Value yourself and what you’re capable of! You can be proud of your competence.

You should note that how you present your competence is contextual. One perspective does not work in all settings, so be ready to adapt your competence to suit the situation and purpose. You can also practise explaining what your competence looks like on the job and what areas you have developed over the years.

Competence is nowadays less frequently linked to a certain professional identity; instead, people speak more of competence identity. We encourage you to try to see your competence in the round and trust in yourself to internalize your own strengths. Competence is your personality’s capital.

Once you have identified your own specialized competence: Feed your strengths. Do not pay too much attention to your weaknesses. Remember to appreciate yourself and your limits.


Further information and personality tests