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Session 3: Identifying my skills, qualities and abilities


Man on a building site in a hard hat writing notes
Figure 3.1

In this session we are going to look at learning in terms of skills, qualities and abilities. This will include formal skills developed through education and work, and other skills developed through experience of everyday life. We will start by looking at Natalia’s story and her timeline that was briefly mentioned in Session 1.

Time for a change?

Of the many changes that new migrant refugees and asylum seekers may experience when coming to the UK, career changes are perhaps one of the most life changing. We’d like you to look at some changes that happened for Natalia and Eric and think about how they might relate to your own life and experiences.

Activity 3.1 A change of career

Timing: You should spend around 20 minutes on this activity.

Read the examples and listen to the audio clips. Then try to answer the questions that follow.

Natalia: a change of career

When Natalia decided to come to Scotland she wanted to change her life and do something different. Here is a list of the steps she took to do this:

  1. Thinking about what she would like to do.
  2. Moving to Glasgow.
  3. Following up the contacts she already had in Glasgow.
  4. Applying for jobs in a field where she had experience – with humanitarian organisations in Glasgow.
  5. Taking on short-term work in a number of roles that would help pay the bills.
  6. Stopping to think about where she was and how she could get where she wanted to be.
  7. Exploring postgraduate university courses in Glasgow.
  8. Studying a second masters degree in a specialist field.
  9. Having the support of her boyfriend during her postgraduate studies in Glasgow.
  10. Completing a work placement in her specialist field.

Now listen to Natalia talking about this time in her life.

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Eric: choosing a career

When Eric came to the UK he was in a completely different environment but he was able to use his existing skills and qualities, develop new ones and take steps to move on:

  1. Arriving in the UK, unsure of what he would do.
  2. Starting a college course in IT to help him find a job.
  3. Finding out who could help him find a job and pursue his career goal.
  4. Completing a pre-nursing college course.
  5. Getting support to find a work placement related to his career goal.
  6. Thinking about his options for study and career.
  7. Starting an Open University course related to his work placement and goals.
  8. Finding a job related to his studies and long-term career goal.

Now listen to Eric talk about this time in his life.

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Reflection and discussion

Consider the following questions:

  • Have you had to deal with a similar situation to either Natalia or Eric?
  • Were there problems that you had to overcome?
  • Did you manage to find any solutions?

Make some notes in the activity sheet  provided or in your notebook.


Go to Activity 3.1 of your Reflection Log. Once you have completed the activity, make sure you save the document again.

If you are working in a group, you might want to share your answers and discuss your notes with each other, or with your mentor if you have one.

Skills and qualities


Listen to Natalia talking about the skills and qualities she needed to draw on to overcome this difficult time in her life when changing her career.

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So Natalia’s skills and qualities are:

  • Technical skills in engineering and geology, research and design: from her university study and training.
  • IT and communications skills: in presenting and writing from her university studies.
  • Communication and language skills: from her work with refugees.
  • Working as part of a team and good with people: from working in cafés.
  • Creative: from her hobby in photography and experience with websites.
  • Hard-working, patient, flexible and adaptable: qualities demonstrated in her journey towards her goal.


Eric has also given some thought to his skills and qualities, which you should listen to now.

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So Eric’s skills and qualities are:

  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Negotiating skills
  • Hard working
  • Organised.

Activity 3.2 Thinking about my skills and qualities

Timing: You should spend around 15 minutes on this activity.

What do you think about Natalia’s and/or Eric’s list of skills and qualities?

Have you thought about the personal qualities that you possess and how you might use these? For example, an expert in information technology (IT) would not necessarily be a good IT teacher if they could not relate well to young people. What other qualities do you feel might be useful – possibly patience, an ability to communicate technical information in an accessible way or an ability to motivate?

Pick an event or a point in your timeline when you had to take action to resolve something. It could be something to do with family, work or practical issues like housing and money.

We have provided a table  for you to make a list of what you did and then think about what skills you used, and the qualities that you have, that may have helped you. These may or may not be the same as Natalia’s or Eric’s.


Go to Activity 3.2 of your Reflection Log. Once you have completed the activity, make sure you save the document again.

You can share your answers and discuss your roles with others in your group. If you want to do this online, you can type them up and post them to an online forum or via social media.


Think about the following questions and make some notes in your Reflection Log or notebook:

  • Did you find that you used some of the same skills as Natalia or Eric?
  • Did you discover that you have other skills, maybe some that you were not aware of?
  • Are you now aware of qualities that you have but hadn’t considered before?

Key skills

Pair of glasses on a skills document
Figure 3.2

Skills can be described in a number of ways – key skills, core skills, practical skills, technical skills or life skills – depending on context and purpose.

These key (or core) skills are important for learning, personal development and employment. You may not have thought about your skills in these terms before, especially if it is some time since you were in education or job-seeking, and you will probably have more skills than you realise: managing a household, paying bills, budgeting, speaking to trades people, making appointments, working together to look after children … and many more.

Activity 3.3 Identifying my key skills

Timing: You should spend around 30 minutes on this activity.

Have a look at the list of key skills in the table provided, thinking about each one in turn.


Go to Activity 3.3 of your Reflection Log. Once you have completed the activity, make sure you save the document again.

As you go down the list, put a tick or a cross in the appropriate box. For example, if you feel that a particular skill is one of your strengths, put a tick in the first column; if, however, you feel quite comfortable about this skill rather than seeing it as a strength, put a tick in the second column; or if you feel you need to develop this skill some more, put a tick in the third column. It may help you to look back at the timeline you made in Session 2 and think about how you responded to the different events in your life.

You wouldn’t expect to find you are strong in all skills, but this activity is useful in helping you to tease out the types of skills you have. When you have finished checking the list, go back to your timeline and add any more skills you have found.

Now choose two or three skills you have ticked and write a few sentences about them, giving examples of how you have used them. You can use the checklist to tell another person in your group what your skills are and how you have used them.

Here is an example of what one person said about their skills:

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This session introduced you to the notion of key skills (or core skills). It aimed to help you identify some of your skills, qualities and abilities, and find out how much you are capable of, as well as where you think you can develop further. If you would like to find out more about study skills, go to Skills for OU Study.

In the next session you will explore how these skills, qualities and abilities might be relevant to your future goals – for personal development, study or career.


To conclude this part of the course and consolidate your learning you may like to complete the third quiz.

Quiz 3 provides evidence that you are achieving the following learning outcomes:

  • an understanding of the strengths, qualities and skills gained by new migrants, refugees and asylum seekers during periods of transitions
  • a clearer understanding of the experiences that learners could have reflected on, including their roles, actions and decisions
  • the ability to use information technology (IT) to carry out simple activities in writing and communicating
  • the ability to use new ways of expressing ideas.

If you need a reminder about the quizzes and the criteria for getting a badge, visit How to complete the course quizzes.


Session 4: Clarifying my goals and planning for the future


Reflecting on Transitions was developed by Lindsay Hewitt and Christine McConnell of The Open University in Scotland in collaboration with Bridges Programmes. The optional quizzes for the related digital course badges for learners and support workers, respectively, were developed by Julie Robson (The Open University) and Jonathan Sharp (Bridges Programmes). The course was edited by Lindsay Hewitt and Jennifer Nockles (The Open University).

We are hugely grateful to Bridges’ clients, Mo, Ying, Eric and Natalia, whose stories have informed the development of this toolkit and bring to life the activities within it. We hope you find something in their experiences that speaks to you as well.

Except for third party materials and otherwise stated (see terms and conditions), this content is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 Licence.   

The material acknowledged below is Proprietary and used under licence (not subject to Creative Commons Licence). Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following sources for permission to reproduce material in this unit:


Figure 3.1: Richard Learoyd for © The Open University

Figure 3.2: ©

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