If this is your first time hearing about motivated skills, you are not alone. A quick search reveals that only very few sites actually talk about this topic. What are motivated skills and how do they relate to job satisfaction and performance?

Motivated skills are a subset of your actual skills

If you really did the search I suggested, you will find articles and resources talking about motivational skills. In this instance, most search algorithms get the definition of this topic quite wrong. Motivated skills are not the same as motivating others or self-motivation. Simply put, motivated skills are skills that you enjoy using frequently and like to develop further.

Another way to understand motivated skills is to consider the opposite: burnout skills. These are skills that you are able to do, but leave you feeling drained, unhappy or frustrated after use. If you eliminate burnout skills from your skillset, you would be left with more-or-less your motivated skills.

Without quoting any research, you already know that using more motivated skills and less burnout skills will make you happier and perform better.

Finding your motivated skills

A simple way anyone can discover their motivated skills is to consider hobbies or leisure activities. With the exception of sleep, most hobbies involve using skillsets that have a work equivalent. For example, travel involves planning, coordination and budgeting, while team sports require leadership, teamwork and tactical ability. With some careful reflection, you should be able to unpack many skills used in your hobby.

You can do something similar with your job and life activities. Start with a list of achievements, accomplishments and other positive experiences you’ve had. Then, for each experience think about what you did, how you did it and where/when the positive feeling came. Those things you did that triggered a positive feeling are candidates for motivated skills.

If you prefer a more structured approach, or don’t have the time to reflect, Knowdell’s Motivated Skills Card Sort is an immensely useful tool. Whether you prefer online or physical cards, this tool comes with an extensive inventory of industry-neutral skills. You can then rank these skills according to how much you like using them and how good you are. The video below by Richard Knowdell gives you an idea of how the cards work.

Video from Knowdell’s site on using the Motivated Skills Card Sort

Perhaps you don’t know what skills you have, or don’t know how to name your skills. For this, you’ll need to reference a skills “dictionary” aka skills ontology. These are some of my preferred ways:

1. Use LinkedIn. Besides being a job search platform and social media network, LinkedIn also has its own skills ontology. This helps recruiters and HR on its paid platform filter and shortlist candidates for relevant positions. To reference it, try: A) Looking for someone who has a similar role to you. B) Search for a job listing for a similar position to you.

Example from LinkedIn. Left: Skills from people’s profile Right: Skills from job listings (app only)

2. Use MyCareersFuture. Targeted at Singaporeans, this job portal has an independently developed skills ontology. You can use the second approach for LinkedIn above to find the skills typically associated with each position.

Skills snapshot from a position listed on MyCareersFuture.sg

3. Use the Skills Framework. Another tool from Singapore, the Skills frameworks documents skills of different industries and job functions. However, you need to search manually for your role, and there may be some tasks you do that are different. As a bonus, it also shows career progression pathways to help you in planning your career.

4. Do a job analysis. If you want to be thorough and precise, do a job analysis of your job. Although typically done by HR to help generate job descriptions for hiring, it can be useful for you too. Consider having someone ask you reflective questions on your tasks and responsibilities to help you discover skills.

What to do next

After identifying your motivated skills, what you use it for depends on your career goal. Before I share, it is important to recognise that skills are just one part of the VIPS framework. You also need to consider your values, interests and personality to make good career planning decisions. Having said that, here are some suggestions based on common goals:

  1. Choosing a first job. Look for jobs that allow you to exercise and develop more motivated skills while minimising the use of burnout skills. If there are doubts on the job scope from the JD, make sure to clarify during the interview!
  2. Progressing in your current career. Try asking for new roles or responsibilities that allow you to flex your motivated skills. If you find yourself using too many burnout skills, talk to your manager about rotating these tasks within the team. Finally, a rotation to a new role that aligns with your interests is also a possibility.
  3. Making a career switch. Among your motivated skills, identify those that are not industry or role specific. Look for examples of these skills in the new role you want to apply for. Remember to highlight these transferrable skills in your resume and interview!

P.S. Those of you who have read my other posts would notice that there are overlaps between motivated skills and values. You will also notice this for Interests and Personality. The distinction between dimensions is not well-defined, and like other social sciences is not meant to be. The key idea is the framework covers your bases, and hopefully at the intersection you find your best career.

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