Now that you’ve gone through your first two petals and looked at the external environment of the types of people you want to be surrounded by as well as the working conditions you want to work in, the “What Color Is Your Parachute?” Flower Exercise turns inward to what skills you have and would bring to the table. Skills is a funny term in job searches. Increasingly people are separating “soft” and “hard” skills, or people have a harder time recognizing some strengths as an actual skill worthy of marketing.
For the purposes of the third petal, “What Color Is Your Parachute?” defines skills as functional skills to deal with people, to process information, or your skills with things. Further, the Parachute method emphasizes focusing on the skills you enjoy, ranking them by preference, and figuring out how to make them a part of your professional life. This is one of the most important parts of this petal – you take stock of skills great and small, and then rank them by how much you enjoy doing them.
But how can you go about cataloging your skills to begin with? The Parachute strategy takes a little bit of work. It recommends that you consider several stories or experiences in your life and actually write them down. They should be small episodes, not big things like earning a college degree. Your stories should feature you as the protagonist in the story confronting a challenge and explaining how you did it. One example might be tackling that first big presentation you gave in your last job and the strategies you employed to do it. Another example might be a remodeling project at home which you’ve tackled. Where did you learn how to solve those problems? What was the eventual outcome of the strategies you used? How did you feel at end of the project?
As you walk your way through your stories, take special note of skills you used. Did you consume a lot of information and put it into a more usable format? Did you organize people at a large gathering? Did you help teach a person a new skill so they could help you? Did you build or manipulate something tangible like a home construction project? These items become specific skills such as: researcher, facilitator, counselor, teacher, or builder. Write down and prioritize the 10 skills you enjoy most that you’ve now identified. Cast aside skills you don’t want to keep in your life and focus and rank those you do.
In going through your own personal assessment you might find many of the skills you most enjoy fall into a specific grouping of skills – working with information versus working with people. Or perhaps you find you want to work with more tangible things – manipulating or making something. Understanding your preferred skills to use you can then connect with other parts of your flower exercise to identify professions which put them to work.
If you’re hesitant to sit down and actually write a few stories in your life to do this part of the flower exercise, there’s one more added benefit to consider. Think of the job interviews you’ve had – almost every one of them involves some sort of question that starts “tell me about a time you’ve had to ______?” Those questions are looking for demonstrations of skills you’ve listed on your resume and if you’ve already taken the time to map out the story, they will come to you easily when you’re in an interview. It is an excellent differentiator between you and the other candidates applying for the same position and can be the difference between an offer or an email that says “thanks for applying but we went with another candidate.”
After the first three petals, you’ve examined the types of people you would prefer to work with, the type of working conditions you find most rewarding, and what skills you most enjoy using. There are four more petals in the Flower Exercise to go, and then we will look at how to put your assessment into a strategy for success.