Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Helping Learners Take Ownership of Their Skills

Many of the trainers I work with deal with clients who are looking for employment. These learners may have just left school or perhaps been recently made redundant or have been out of work for some time, and something I always encourage trainers to do is to help them to identify and take ownership of the skills they have to offer potential employers. Indeed, this is a fundamental part of my Let’s Get That Job! employability skills course.

Most of us are not very good at identifying the skills we have to offer. If I asked you to name your top five skills right now, could you do it? Probably not, at least not without some time and thought. But when a potential employer asks you what skills and qualities you are going to bring to their organisation you had better be ready with an answer.

Furthermore, encouraging learners to identify their skills and qualities goes beyond being a useful response to an interview question. It can form the basis of a personal profile for their CV, it can be worked into a speculative letter and, perhaps, most importantly, it can make them feel a whole lot better about themselves.

Getting back to the root of the problem, if you simply ask your learners to identify their skills and qualities they will firstly struggle, then come up with the same old “good communication skills”, “team player”, “good time keeper” type of responses. You’ve got to get your learners to think about other skills and qualities that they’ve not considered before. The sort of things that make them different from others and stand out in a crowd.

The best way to do this is to provide them with a list of words and short phrases to choose from. I actually use two lists. A list of skills and strengths like “paying attention to detail” and “taking responsibility”, and a list of personal qualities like “empathetic”, “ambitious” and “creative”. Put the words in a format that will allow your learners to tick the ones that are appropriate to them. Before you know it they have a list as long as their arm!

The next step is to narrow that list down to five. I like to call it their Top Five. Get your learners to go through all the skills, strengths and personal qualities they have ticked and pick out the five that are the most important to them. Then encourage them, one by one, to read out to the rest of the group the five they have chosen. Encourage them to say them in a clear and confident voice. Now you’re really getting them to take ownership of their skills.

But it doesn’t end there. Get your learners to use their newly identified skills on a regular basis. Get them to write a personal profile with the five words included. Get them to compose a speculative letter that emphasises what they can offer, and keep coming back to the five skills, strengths and qualities throughout future training sessions. In no time at all, each of your learners Top Five skills will be well and truly embedded!

If you would like more information about our 2-day Let's Get That Job! course then visit Gary Bedingfield Training Services website at http://www.garybedingfield.co.uk/training_courses/lets_get_that_job.html