[Career Readiness] What’s the Difference Between Skills, Talents, and Experience?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016 -- Leslie Holland

A career is a journey, not a destination, and for everyone, it involves a variety of checkpoints, excursions, and detours along the way. However, regardless of your learners’ specific goals, there are some critical skills that any career traveler must acquire. Developing the ability to articulate how unique skills, talents, and experience map to career objectives and successfully integrating the terminology of a chosen field into everyday vocabulary are key steps to solidify career readiness. Accomplishing this objective is challenging, and it requires learners to build a thorough understanding of both the career cluster they are interested in and themselves.

To illustrate how skills, talents, and experience converge throughout the process of building a career, let’s look at an example. Sarah is an adult learner who is very interested in becoming a radiologist. She has been employed as a home healthcare worker part-time for the past few years and also has been taking basic prerequisite classes in math and science. She is ready to apply for entry into a radiology program, but to be accepted, she must complete an application form and go through an interview process. Sarah is struggling with how to express herself both on paper and in the interview—especially when it comes to defining her skills, talents, and experience as they relate to the field.

So what exactly is the difference between these three kinds of abilities, and how can Sarah best use her knowledge and background to show she is a great candidate for the radiology program? She will need to address all three in order to propel her career journey forward. Here is a good way to break it down:

Skills are the things you have learned that are specific to a job or task—for example (using Sarah’s case):

  • Completing a patient care report
  • Knowing how to physically transport a patient from a wheelchair to a bed

Talents are the things you have a natural gift for:

  • Communicating well, both verbally and in written form
  • Being friendly and engaging to put people at ease, even if they’re in pain

Experience consists of the things you have done:

  • Preparing food and medications for diabetic and heart surgery patients on a daily basis following doctors’ orders
  • Measuring and recording patient vitals accurately on a daily basis

Developing a level of comfort in differentiating these terms is key to both employability and sustainability in a career. By being able to identify their own abilities within this type of framework, learners can become advocates for themselves throughout the process of job hunting and building a career.

We’ve created this infographic to help explain the difference between skills, talents, and abilities and apply that understanding to careers in a variety of fields:

Career Pathways Infographic

Want to find out more about how Edmentum’s online courses and practice programs for adult and higher education can support your learners’ career goals? Check out our Effective Workforce Readiness Solutions!

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