Developing Your Career

Four Tips for Building a “5-Tool” Skill Set

By Helene Cavalli on October 23, 2012

Now that the World Series is upon us, you might want to pick up a few baseball analogies for the workplace.  As we get ready for the match up between the Detroit Tigers and the San Francisco Giants, some will no doubt reference the number of “tools” or superior skills a player brings to the game. A “five-tool” player is exemplary – and usually bound for the Hall of Fame; a two-tool player, less valuable.  This is a terrific analogy for defining a high performer.  If you were being measured by the number of “tools” you exhibit on your job, how would you fare?

It wasn’t so long ago that employees could enjoy a long career with a handful of  finely honed skills. Today, marketable skills are fluid – impacted by forces well beyond our control: economic fluctuations, legislation, technological innovation, globalization, unpredictable weather or simply the whims of a a fickle marketplace. If you haven’t done so before, now is a good time to take an inventory of the tools you’re bringing to the workplace.

Here are four tips for measuring your on-the-job skills while building your inventory of tools:

  1.  Stay informed. Bookmark sites like the Wall Street Journal, Inc. and Forbes to keep informed on the latest in career-related news. Follow economic and job market news to keep your finger on the pulse of trends that will be affecting the workplace, your industry and your profession. Use social media and professional associations to gather and share valuable career-related intelligence. Information is currency.
  2. Analyze your job. Break down your current and past jobs into the individual skills you’ve used. Which did you enjoy the most? Which enabled you to really excel? The LinkedIn Skills and Expertise section (under the “More” tab) offers a searchable list that can provide ideas. Know what you like and what you’re good at.
  3. Fill gaps. Based on your research and analysis, what skills should you be developing in order to remain relevant in your current job or prepared for your next move? Determine whether these in-demand skills can be acquired on the job, or require additional education or training. Then take action.
  4.  Build on strengths. Identify your strongest skills and devise a plan for taking those to the next level. If your strengths have become rusty from lack of use, they’re not going to support you much longer. Take on a tough project to hone those skills.

Like Hall of Fame baseball players, the most valuable players in the workplace consistently demonstrate a commitment to excellence through preparedness and agility, teamwork, deliberate training and on-going development, a willingness to accept coaching, and the discipline it takes to stay on top of their game.  Get ready to “knock it out of the park.”

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