What are Analytical Skills?

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Many people tend to equate analytical skills with technical professions such as computer science, data analysis and Big Data. However, most of us use valuable analytical skills daily to problem solve and create plans of action, regardless of our profession. Analytical skills are the methods used to recognize problems, evaluate them with available data and find solutions for avoiding the same problems in the future.

Why You Need Analytical Skills

Many of the top positions available require applicants to have a full toolbox of analytical skills. These skills help employees put systems in place that streamline processes and create better results.

Consider the following techniques involved in analytical thinking:

Detecting Specific Problems – Issues are often complex and need to be broken down to find the areas that require change. Alternatively, smaller problems often have larger implications that warrant further exploration. Seeing the full scope of potential obstacles helps to identify problems before they arise.

Identifying Relevant Information – Data doesn’t have to be a spreadsheet of numbers. It can also be memos, scientific papers, peer-reviewed journal studies, laws and guidelines, process reports and newspaper articles. Many pieces of information are complex and not easily understood. Those who can analyze material and explain it to others in an understandable way have a much-needed analytical skill.

Data Organization – Finding the relevant data will not be helpful if everyone who needs to use it cannot store, organize or relay the information effectively. Data organization can include systems like Slack, Trello, SharePoint or internal databases, among others.

Creativity for New Ideas – Once the data is in hand, the brainstorming begins. Employees who can find solutions to problems quickly and efficiently can help organizations save time and money. This skill often translates to a faster trajectory to higher level positions.

How Do I Improve My Analytical Skills?

One of the best ways you can improve analytical skills is to identify when you are already using them naturally. Write down all of the tasks completed toward a project for a certain period, like a day or a week. Then take each task and see where and how it fits in your analytical toolbox. Is it a part of information gathering, evaluation or brainstorming new ideas? Soon, you'll be able to see the areas where you excel and the areas where you need a bit more work.

Here are a few more tips to help develop your analytical skills:

Ask Questions – Don’t be afraid to ask questions to truly get to the root of issues. Many times, people are afraid to appear incompetent, but there is often someone else in the room who has the same questions you have.

Slow Down – Take some time to mull over an issue long enough to come up with several solutions. Those who rush to find the quickest solution often don’t have a full understanding of the problem.

Separate Fact from Fiction – Ask yourself if there are any details other than the facts that are swaying your thought process. Office politics or being in the rut of doing things the way they've always been done can get in the way of solving problems. Use logic to arrive to fact-based solutions.

Use Visual Aids – Brainstorming with post-it notes or using mind mapping software may help to visualize the larger picture and organize the information.

Highlighting Analytical Skills

Since analytical skills are so important to hiring managers and bosses, workers should highlight them whenever possible. Identify top analytical skills such as effective communication, creativity, research capabilities and organization in cover letters, resumes, interviews and during performance reviews.

In addition to highlighting these skills, be able to explain how they were used to reach successful outcomes. The more you recognize the skills you use on a daily basis, the easier it becomes to showcase your analytical talents naturally over time.