How do you differentiate yourself from the hundreds of candidates competing with you for your next dream job? You may find yourself in front of people with more experience or education and more prestigious job titles in their resumes. Your challenge is to let the interviewer know that you are a special person who brings more to the table than your experience may lead her to believe. It’s time to talk about talent.
Talent is defined by Merriam Webster on the Internet as a special talent (often creative or artistic), general intelligence or mental strength. Simply put, this is what you are good at, and most of us do not talk enough about our talent. Paul and Sarah Edwards, authors of many books on finding great opportunities for self-employment, say that “talent is a gift you were born with; a skill is a gift you give yourself.” You will often see talent and skill used intermittently, but they measure very different things. Skill can be built through hard work and practice, but it will always be limited by your talent. Talent defines how fast you can develop vital skills; This will be what sets the best performance apart from the average employee.
You may be surprised to hear the same ideas applied in everyday work. We do not often talk about talent in human resources, and for good reason. Talent, unlike skill, is easy to spot but hard to measure. It can be even harder to discuss, although it can be a huge advantage if you know how to present it in an interview.
We talk about talent all the time in the creative arts, but we rarely refer to it in the office. Our dictionary definition above gives us some synonyms to consider: talent, strength or intelligence. The key to identifying talent is that it’s something that comes to you more easily or naturally than others. Think about what people often praise, compliment or appreciate you, according to Edwards. Is there anything that people are asking you to do for them on a regular basis? Is there anything that people say you are so good at “need to get paid to do it?” Chances are it’s one of your talents.
Maybe you’re good with numbers; You might be mechanically smart. Do you have a gift for speaking or writing, or are you the best in the office in organizing projects or drawing designs? Your gift may reach you so easily that you discount it. If you’ve ever found yourself saying “oh, anyone can do it,” or “it’s nothing; these things just come to me easily,” you are probably ignoring the very talent that makes you special and unique.
Why is talent important, and why should you talk about it? Training can only take you so far in a job, especially in a complex and knowledge-based job. At some point, the job challenge will outweigh your experience and training. At this point talent can – and will – make a difference in your performance. Employers hire degrees, certifications and experience, but they are really looking for talent. If you have it, they want it. And they will pay to keep it.
Still not sure you have natural gifts that will entitle you to work? It’s OK. Given the choice between natural talent and skill building, it is best for most of us to work hard to develop skills. We all knew people who wasted their natural gifts; Maybe they lack the discipline to hone their talents, the courage to insist on finding an opportunity to use them, or they lack the confidence to know how good they are. Character, dedication and discipline are as rare as natural talent. You can earn a lot of points with a potential employer by showing how your hard work and discipline help you achieve results at work.
Whether you are natural or work hard to be good at what you do, it is important to strive for excellence and be able to articulate that you can do the job well. Did a good job, and learned to tell a good story.
Candice’s background includes human resources, recruitment, training and evaluation. She spent several years at a nationwide staffing company, serving employers at both beaches. Her writing on business, career and employment has appeared in the Florida Times Union, the Jacksonville Business Journal, the Atlanta Journal Constitution and 904 Magazine, as well as several national publications and websites. Candice is often quoted in the media on local labor market and employment issues.
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