Understanding Your Skills and Interests
Part of the university experience is getting to know and understand yourself. This takes some awareness and self-reflection. Reflecting on how you change and how your personality and skills relate to different careers can be helpful. Understanding your skills and interests early on will give you an advantage for career exploration and even course and program selection at uni.
Even if you already know what career you’re headed for, I would encourage you to continue to learn about yourself and your career options during your degree. Every career is nuanced and you’ll have to pick what kinds of organizations you want to work at, who you want to work with, etc.
How can you get to know yourself better? Identify your aptitudes and interests by reflecting and speaking with those who know you to answer the following questions:
What are your Strengths?
Make a list of all your skills – everything you are good at. This isn’t easy. Sometimes, it’s much easier for us to identify the things we are not so good at. But it is also important to be able to identify your strengths.
Here are some suggestions that may help with your list, and there’s a list of some sample skills below in case you need some inspiration.
→What do you think you are good at?
→What do people come to you for help with or advice about?
→Ask your friends, parents, teachers, coworkers: What do they say your top skills are?
→Are there any school subjects that are easier for you? What are the tasks that are easier for you in your courses?
→What can you do that not everybody can do?
Examples of Skills
Here are some examples of skills you may already be strong in based on your experiences.
→Language skills (such as reading comprehension, writing and written communication)
→Critical thinking skills (such as research and analysis, synthesizing research, analyzing situations and contexts)
→Creativity skills (such as communicating through a variety of media, looking at situations from different perspectives, and creating innovative solutions to problems)
→Quantitative and logic skills (such as math, stats, coding, debate)
Make sure to read my post about transferable skills here for another list of skills you have likely acquired in your university studies.
What is your Learning Style?
What kind of learner are you? Think about the courses that you do the best at, and also, for topics that you find more difficult, what helped you finally understand?
→Do you prefer courses that require memorization?
→Do you like building logical arguments off of research?
→Is it easy for you to analyze and synthesize information from a variety of resources?
→Do you enjoy doing research and learning a lot on a specific topic? Do you get lost in a “rabbit-hole” when you start researching?
→Do you enjoy writing and trying to find the best way to communicate an argument?
→Do you like looking for and finding research resources and reading old documents to find info?
→Do you learn best when you practice calculations until you know how to do them on your own?
What are your interests?
I used to have so much trouble answering this! I didn’t really do anything outside of school but read books and watch tv, so I wasn’t really sure what I was interested in. I would encourage any university student to go out into the world and try more things than I did until you can answer this question. Don’t just think about the activities that you love, but what aspects of them you enjoy. For example, the following activities may relate to these aspects:
Sports – Strategy, teamwork, physical activity
Art – Interpreting and communicating the world in creative ways, practice & patience, improving skills
Debate – building logical arguments, understanding different perspectives, analyzing situations
Gaming – strategy, teamwork, planning
Community activities (volunteering, school clubs, church groups, community work, etc) – teamwork, social support, giving back
Ask yourself these questions to help determine your interests:
→What do you get lost in and don’t notice time passing?
→What are your favourite subjects in school? What do you like to learn about?
→What do you like to do outside of school and what aspects of it doe you enjoy?
Need More Help finding your skills and interests?
If you’re still having trouble understanding your skills and interests, there are a number of assessments you could do: Strengthsquest, MBTI, enneagram types, etc. Your high school counsellor or university career centre may be able to assist with this as well. They may recommend certain assessments or questions you ask in order to learn more about yourself.
There are many people who do not think that assessments like Strengthsquest, MBTI, or the enneagram are helpful. This is fine! Going through the assessments may help you realize something about yourself. And if the assessment tells you something and you strongly disagree with it, that may help you realize something about yourself or give you something to reflect on. I would encourage you not feel limited by these types of assessments, but to take what helps you and discard anythign that you don’t think is helpful. If you are really opposed to these types of assessments, you can also stick with talking to people who know you well about what they think your skills and interests are.
Next Steps in Exploring Your Skills and Interests
Now that you are coming to a better understanding of who you are, this knowledge will help you with course and program selection, and also with your career exploration. This post on choosing your major is a good next read!
Use this time at university to explore your career options and gain the experiences that will help you achieve your career goals. You have so many opportunities and supports avaialble to you as a student – make sure you take advantage of them!