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My Degree & Skills

Types of Skills

Types of Skills

What are skills…really?

Simply stated,

A skill is a demonstrated ability to do something well.

If you were asked right now to list your skills, what would your list look like? It might be a short list, not because you don’t possess many skills, but simply because you have never been asked to identify them and are not used to thinking or talking about them.

Each person has hundreds of distinct skills. However, most people have trouble identifying their skills and, even when able to do so, feel uncomfortable describing them. Yet, being able to do this is critically important to your future:

Having a clear understanding of your skills will enable you to confidently pursue occupations - and jobs - that you are qualified for and that you will enjoy.

Skills can be learned and developed in a variety of ways:

  • academic or vocational training
  • self-study
  • athletics
  • hobbies
  • extracurricular activities
  • paid and unpaid experiences

There are two main categories of skills: technical and transferable.

Technical skills

Technical skills are skills you have learned for a specific professional purpose.


  • Programming in C++
  • Conducting statistical analysis using SPSS
  • Mapping in GIS
  • Sampling techniques
  • Using specific equipment in the lab
  • Preparing financial statements
  • Writing a research paper to specifications
  • Formatting documents according to different citation methods

Transferable skills

Transferable skills are skills that you can use in multiple domains of your life.

Transferable skills can often feel more difficult to quantify and prove, and yet their value to employers cannot be overestimated. Some examples include

  • communication
  • interpersonal
  • critical thinking
  • analytical/problem solving
  • intercultural

Personal attributes

Connected to, but different from skills are personal attributes.

Personal attributes are qualities or characteristics that are a part of what make you who you are.

Examples include having a positive attitude or being enthusiastic. They tend to be related to skills, since certain collections of personal qualities (such as enthusiasm and approachability) often allow the individual to develop more effective interpersonal skills, but they are not considered to be the same thing.

University of Waterloo

Centre for Career Development