When potential employers look at your resume, they try to assess your specific job-related, or technical, qualifications. When they interview you, they want to know what you can do with these skills. Understanding the difference between technical and general work skills will help you balance developing both as you create your career plan.
Technical qualifications are specific learned abilities, such as knowledge of software, processes, machinery and other work knowledge that applies to specific tasks. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, your technical skills would include your ability to create images using software and your drawing skills. They would include your knowledge of preparing and delivering designs for use in print materials, on websites and for mobile devices. Knowing how to create a magazine grid or an inverted six design for advertisements and brochures are also examples of technical skills because they relate directly to the execution of a specific type of work. Technical skills are sometimes called core competencies, while some people use the phrase to refer primarily to technology skills related to computers and software. During an interview, ask how the interviewer is using the phrase.
General skills are those you use to manage your overall job, such as meeting deadlines, communicating with co-workers and clients, writing memos and reports, and building and leading teams. These are skills that transfer from job to job, company to company and task to task. Climbing the ladder to management positions often comes down to your general management skills because many others might have the same technical skills as you do, but not everyone can use them to innovate, or have leadership and team-building capabilities.
Developing Technical Skills
Don’t rest on your laurels when it comes to your technical skills, even if you have an advanced degree from a well-known college. Earning a certification tells employers you are current in your field, especially if maintaining your certification requires continuing education. Subscribe to trade publications to keep up to date on what’s happening in your field and pay attention to the ads to keep up with the latest products, technologies and other innovations. Start a library of books and DVDs in your area of expertise to advance your knowledge and offer to swap with co-workers and peers. Join associations to get access to their website content, newsletters, seminars and trade shows.
Developing General Skills
If you want to become a manager, you’ll need to be able to lead others who have specific technical skills. This will require learning a variety of communications, listening, time-management, budgeting, leadership and team-building skills. Talk with your boss or human resources department about employee development programs they might have, including reimbursements for tuition, certifications, dues, subscriptions and outside training. Be proactive and find seminars and workshops you feel will improve your skills and benefit the company and pitch them to your manager.