The Four Categories of Skills – Which Career Direction Will You Take?


Last month, I launched a 14-day course about skill developing and choosing the right career path. Below is a sample of a lesson. If you find value in it, you can join my email list (below and at the bottom of the page) and you’ll be notified when the free course is available again.

The 14 Day Career Development Course

This is a course about picking the right career, skill development, passion and mastery.

The structure of this course is to give you career building principles. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be sending you new lessons, tasks, and resources.

These are the same principles I’m using for my own professional development.

If you follow these principles, you’ll find better jobs, understand how to make employers want to hire and promote you, and discover how you can actually turn your intelligence into a good paying job and career happiness.

Here’s your first lesson.

[symple_heading type=”h2″ title=”Lesson 1: Focus relentlessly on your core strengths; ignore your weaknesses” margin_top=”20px;” margin_bottom=”20px” text_align=”left”]

You want me to tell you which career to choose. But in your heart of hearts, you know this is not possible. I don’t know your strengths or what you love.

I don’t know if being a magazine editor sounds like hell to you. Or if you’d hate to be an analyst.

While I can’t help you choose a specific career direction, I can help you discover your core strengths. Your core strengths decide which careers you will love and be successful at.

Successful people relentlessly focus on their strengths. They are never jack-of-all-trades. They pursue passion and mastery.

You need a core skill to be successful.

There are four basic types of skill categories in the world:

[symple_box color=”blue” text_align=”left” width=”100%” float=”none”]

  • Leadership & Management
  • Creativity & Communication
  • Analysis & Research
  • Technical & Information Skills


I know this is a reduction and also know your strengths can overlap. For example, I enjoy a bit of technical stuff (like coding websites) and I enjoy creativity. I also don’t mind managing people and quite enjoyed being a boss of a small landscape company.

Yet, the four basic categories help you find your true north.

For example, a teacher would fall into the Leadership & Management category. A writer or PR professional would fall into the Communication category. A CIA analyst or market researcher would fall into the Analysis category. An engineer, web developer, or accountant would fall into the Technical category.

To find success you need to focus on your core strength. Everyone has one.

[symple_box color=”gray” text_align=”left” width=”100%” float=”none”] is an excellent career blog for grads and PhDs. You can read more about the four categories of skills as his blog first introduced me to this basic division. It’s a great blog.

Andy Johns, an early employee at Facebook and very talented ex-social sciences grad who has companies around the world begging him to work for them, advises for you to begin with your core strength and ignore everything else.

He advises grads to “start by finding a job that requires you to use your strengths more often than not. By focusing your work around what you’re good at, you’ll find greater long-term enjoyment with your work as well as a higher likelihood of being successful at it.”

You don’t have to choose one direction completely. I enjoy doing analytical work and being creative. At the same time, you need to choose where the majority of your energy will go.

I enjoy technical stuff. But if I had to choose, creativity would be the activity I couldn’t live without.

If you don’t focus on your core strength, you will be at a disadvantage. You will be competing for jobs with other people who have stronger skills than you.

If you are a poet by night and an engineer by day, you’ll be working with people who love being an engineer night and day. They will be focused on being the best while you focus on getting by.

The beauty of this is that it goes both ways. The highly technical math-orientated person is a great analyst. She can find you insights. She can data-dive into millions of records. She understands this area. Yet, if you ask her “based on this data, should we sell the company and go into a different market?” she won’t have a confident answer. Leadership is not her core strength.

Technical people mock soft-skills but they are also secretly terrified of them. Unlike a technical task, there are no rules and no clear definition of success. This goes against their analytical minds.

It’s never been my ambition to be a CEO or school principle because I know I wouldn’t be good at it. [Management & Leadership].

It’s never been my ambition to be a scientist or market researcher because while I’m pretty good at analytical tasks, I don’t want to do them every day. [Research & Analysis]

I like learning about code and programing, but I find that mastering a language would be mind numbing. [Technical & Information Skills]

My dream job would be a famous speechwriter, a TV writer, or graphic novel writer. This is why I’ve focused on careers that require creative problem solving and writing. [Creativity & Communication]

It comes down to what you can live without.

Have you seen Spinal Tap? The documentarian asks the drummer of the band, who is sitting in a bathtub, “Could you ever imagine your life without rock and roll?”



The drummer thinks for a moment and then says, “would there still be the sex and the drugs? I think that if there was still drugs and sex, I could live without the music.”

I like being an analyst. I like coding. But I can live without them.

I can’t live without creating. My core skills are Creativity & Communication.

What is your core strength?

Go back to the list above. What is the one area you couldn’t live without?

That is your core strength.

The first task of 2014 is to realize that you need to pursue roles at companies that require that skill. Later, we will talk more about this.

But the goal right now is for you to commit to your core strength.

As Andy Johns says, “everyone has their inherent strengths and weaknesses. I’m of the camp that believes that people should focus most on playing to their strengths and to align their strengths with a role that requires them to use their strengths regularly.”

Which of the skill categories below resonates with you the most? Don’t worry about the specific careers you can get. Each of these areas has careers and all (beside being a CEO) pay relatively the same.

[symple_box color=”blue” text_align=”left” width=”100%” float=”none”]

  • Leadership & Management
  • Creativity & Communication
  • Analysis & Research
  • Technical & Information Skills


 Related resources

How to Write a Cover Letter Using the Alligator Brain 

The Ultimate Guide to Finding a Job as an English Majors

PhD in English Useless Destroyed My Life 

PhD Job Hell: How Just Don’t Go to Grad School Saved My Life 

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