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The Difference Between Skills and Preferences

The Difference Between Skills and Preferences

By Donna Dunning

What do you like to do?

What are you good at doing?

Are the answers to these two questions always the same?

Separating Preferences from Skills

Your career path and goals are affected by many factors, including what you like to do and what you are good at doing.

What you like to do is often assessed as interests, values, or preferences. We all benefit from understanding our natural approach and from finding work that suits who we are.

Everyone needs to use and develop abilities, skills and competencies to succeed in work and life.

Often there is overlap between what you want to do and what you can do. As you spend time doing things that interest you, you gain experience and proficiency. Your natural personality type preferences may align well to using and developing skills in certain areas.

However, you may end up developing skills and competencies that lead to roles you don’t enjoy and fall into a trap of working in areas that you are good at, but don’t prefer.

Don’t Confuse Preferences with Skills

Although there are overlaps between what you like and what you are good at, it is important to not confuse these two considerations.

For example, people who prefer INTJ typically approach situations by deeply analyzing and connecting a broad range of ideas. Yet it would be inaccurate to say that people who prefer INTJ are all good analyzers or that any INTJ would be an excellent strategic planner. Analysis and strategic planning are not preferences. They are skills and competencies.

Same with linking “scores” on personality type assessments to amounts of a skill. Scores on personality type measures simply help us see if the preference has been clearly sorted. It is inaccurate to assume a higher score links to more expression of any one characteristic linked to a preference.

For example, those who “score higher” on a measure of Judging are not better or more organized than those who “score lower”. We all know some people are more organized than others, but personality type scores are not designed to measure this. The score is simply a measure of how many more J answers than P answers a person gave when sorting their preferences.

Preferences are Not an Excuse

There are a number of skills and competencies you need to help you be successful when working and interacting with others. Not all of the skills and competencies will align to what you prefer to do. A person who prefers INTP may not be particularly interested in developing rapport at work or a person who prefers ESFP may not be enthralled with structure and routine.

That doesn’t give INTPs permission to avoid small talk or free ESFPs from having to deal with routines. Work requires you to move outside of what you like to do some of the time and everyone can learn to use all of the personality type preferences.

For more examples, see the blog on Misuses of Personality Type.

Clearly separate preferences from skills. You need to be aware of both to succeed.

Understand your natural approach and combine this information with an assessment of the essential skills and competencies necessary to succeed in any situation.

See the 10 Essential Career Success Strategies for a summary of key workplace competencies.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 6th, 2011 at 8:19 am and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “The Difference Between Skills and Preferences”

  1. Isabel says:

    I found your discussion very thughot provoking. And I agree wholeheartedly with the last comment about tests making good springboards for discussion and reflection. It is the discussion that brings out the real learning and development, in my view, and sometimes putting it all down on paper or telling someone is what is needed to get the ideas clear in your mind. I did a similar test about decision making style and came out very extrovert. You might too. An extrovert decision maker is one who considers the options by talking them over (versus and introvert who goes away and thinks about it and then only tells others when a decision has been made). So there are lots of ways of looking at what those personality characteristics are about.

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