The Difference Between Values, Interests, Skills, and Abilities

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Before we tell you about VISA (values, interests, skills, and abilities), you might be wondering why you should care. Well, listen up. This is a good one. It might even change your life:

With VISA on your side, you don’t have to swim in a sea of job possibilities. You know what keywords to look for in a job ad and what questions to ask in an interview. The insight allows you to go after jobs you want, not just jobs that are available. More importantly, VISA could lead you to a job that will satisfy and inspire you for quite some time. 

It really is that simple: knowing what your values, interests, skills, and abilities are can set you on the path toward career success.

And what are your values, interests, skills, and abilities? Allow us to explain:

1. Values: Values are personal and specific. You may not hold the same values as the next person. That’s why it’s important that you identify what you hold in the highest regard and allow those values to guide your decision-making. In an ideal work setting, your values align with the values of the organization and leadership. Even if you can’t quite identify what you value the most, knowing the things that have little value to you can provide you with clues about what you should look for in a job opportunity!

2. Interests: Interests cause your eyebrows to raise. Interests light a fire in you and compel you to learn more and do more. If you’re interested in the subject matter at work, motivation comes easy. Genuine interest will also keep you fueled when putting in extra time and effort at the office for whatever reason. Ultimately, interests can keep you engaged in a career over the long haul.

3. Skills: With training and practice, you can likely learn to do most straightforward tasks, especially if you’re an intelligent and naturally motivated person. You are not born with skills, but you are born to learn new skills. Identifying your specific skills allows you to look for opportunities to transfer them to new arenas anf apply them in new and different ways. Taking stock of the skills you possess can also assist you in identifying the skills you want to add to your personal toolkit.

Path4. Abilities: Abilities come easily to you, without any real effort. When you work within your natural abilities, you often find yourself in the zone — you know, those moments when you’re working and you lose track of time because you get so caught up in your work. Your abilities range from physical, to interpersonal, to intellectual, and they set you apart from the pack. Everyone has natural abilities — don’t waste your talent!

It must be said that you can work in a position that doesn’t line up with your VISA and still be happy and successful. However, you’ll probably have to work harder, and you may not stay happy for too long.

Now You Know the Why and the What. Here’s the How.

The first step is to sit down and take an inventory of your values, interests, skills, and abilities. If you aren’t certain what those are, consider taking an assessment and/or working with a career coach to help you uncover those pieces of yourself.

With the new knowledge about your VISA, you can outline a career path that suits you best. Now is your chance to daydream. Map out your perfect position down to every last detail. You deserve it.

And once you know what that perfect position is, leverage your VISA to go out and get it.

Read more in Career Planning

Dori Stiles, Ph.D., is the director of training and research at The Highlands Company, the publisher of The Highlands Ability Battery (HAB). The HAB measures natural abilities and is administered by a network of 300+ certified consultants around the globe who have been trained in the Highlands Whole Person Method. Learn more at