What Makes You Special? – Finding Your Core Competences

We each have unique strengths and capabilities based on our personalities, interests, education, experience etc.

What makes a competence or a skill into a core competence, however, is the intersection of skills. Every person has a unique set of skills and competences, and finding the skills which you excel at, along with your special set of knowledge, can help you find your Unique Selling Point, and thus your core competences.

So how do you figure out what your core competences are?

It is interesting that we often find it easier to point out what other people are great at, than finding our own strengths. I therefore encourage you to do the following exercise with a few other people as sparring partners. Of course you can do it by yourself, but there’s a good chance other people might spot something you can’t – or encourage you to emphasize something you feel a little scared to do.

One Way to Find Your Core Competences

  1. Individually get a big piece of paper and divide it into three columns with the following headlines:
    What have I done?
    What have I learnt?
    Core competence
  2. Under the ‘What have I done’ each person lists everything they have done in terms of education, jobs and personal hobbies/interests. The older you get, you might want to focus on the “bigger” things, or more recent events, although that is completely up to you and how much time you have.
  3. Still individually, list the skills, personality traits and competences under ‘What have I learnt’ that you learnt or used for the events listed under the ‘What have I done’ column.
  4. In the group, go through the events and skills listed, discuss them and come up with some overarching ‘themes’. What does your list of skills and traits have in common? Those are your core competences.

Personal Example:

I’ll use a few of the items on my list, as an example.

I have a degree in Information Management from Copenhagen Business School. While studying for that degree, I developed technical skills within Information and Knowledge Management, Project Management, Communication, data processing, oral and written communication of knowledge, co-operation, English skills (as the degree is taught exclusively in English, Danish being my mother tongue).

From my time as a student assistant and an intern in the communication department of the Danish Cancer Society I used skills such as co-operation across departments, making, executing and analyzing user surveys, working on intranets via SharePoint and again, communicating knowledge and information.

I have been blogging for more than 1½ years and I am blessed to have a very international set of friends, which has given me skills within blogging, writing, cultural understanding and communication.

This is a long list of skills, of course, and while they are all valuable and useful, some are repeated and show where my unique strength and skills lie – my core competences. From this list I realized that above all, my core competence is communicating knowledge and information (especially through writing), along with functioning as a “liaison” between people, being user-oriented and having cultural understanding.

When my group and I went through my full list of education, work and personal experience, we came up with the following list of core competences:

  • Communication of knowledge (written and oral)
  • “Liaison”
  • Writing
  • Cultural (international) understanding
  • User-oriented
  • Independent / self-disciplined
  • Eager for knowledge
  • Quick learner
  • Creative / innovative
  • Conflict management
  • Social media
  • Cooperation
  • Change processes
  • Understanding communication processes
  • Translation/language skills

How to Use Your Core Competences

So what use is it, to know your core competences? Well, you can use it to:

  • Direct your focus in terms of your work and your private life. Focus on your core competences to achieve above-average results.
  • Stand out from the competition when interviewing for jobs by inserting your core competences into your C.V. and your job application.
  • Stand out from the competition as a freelancer or independent consultant.
  • Build on your strengths.

How I’m Using My Core Competences

I did this exercise a week ago, and what surprised me the most, is the red thread running through most of my educational, work-place and personal pursuits. This red thread is sharing knowledge, especially through writing. I’m a passionate person who loves to read, learn and share that knowledge. Learning about my core competences has been one of the things that has pushed me recently to dare start this blog, and write.

I will also be using my newly acquired knowledge to focus my job search (I’m a recent graduate and currently looking for a job within the communication and information management field), and to help show companies exactly what I can do for them – and how that makes me different to everyone else.


Do you know what your core competences are? If not, are you going to find out? How do you/will you use your knowledge of your core competences?

If you have any other questions or comments, please let me know. You can also email me privately at rebekkaksteg[at]gmail[dot]com

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it.


  1. Haha, knowing your strengths. Very important, but as you said, not easy to realize. I’m often surprised when I hear how others think or speak about me. I’d never have dared to think of myself like that.

    I’d say my core competences are my analytical thinking and my creativity. I should talk about this with my close friends.

    Thank you for this post, Becky! 🙂


    • Thank you for reading Kath – and for stopping by to comment 🙂

      I know precisely what you mean, I think others can often see things that we can’t – or say things that we maybe can see, but wouldn’t dare to use to describe ourselves.

      That’s also why I think it’s so important to do this with other people, because they can be a huge encouragement and support and allow you to dare follow your dreams.

      I definitely think your core competences involve analytical thinking and creativity, but I’d add your writing too. You’re very good at explaining your knowledge – oh and I love your pictures too! And of course you’re really talented musically.



  1. Finding Your Character Strengths « Becky's Kaleidoscope

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: