What Are Your Killer Skills and How Often Are You Using Them?

What Are Your Killer Skills and How Often Are You Using Them?

Finding yourself exhausted after work or dreading going into the office each day?  There could be several reasons for this, but one you may not have considered is how much your job requires you to use your “killer skills”.

Authors and career counselors Kevin and Kay Marie Brennfleck coined the term killer skills to refer to things you do very well but that drain you.  Coworkers, bosses, and customers might even compliment you on these skills, but you hate using them and they sap your mental and emotional energy.

Think about a bartender who hates making small-talk, an admin assistant who hates dealing with paperwork, or an executive who hates navigating office politics.

If you’re not sure what your killer skills are but you’re struggling to enjoy your job, you might take a few weeks to notice the various skills you use each day and which kinds of tasks you look forward to versus the ones you keep putting off.  If you feel like you can already identify your killer skills, think about how often you need to use them in your job.  According to Brennfleck and Brennfleck (2005), you are likely to be happiest and healthiest when your killer skills comprise 20% or less of your job.

Using your killer skills more than 20% of the time?  Consider these possible solutions:

  1. Identify which skills you like using least and plan to do them at times that enable you to relax or reward yourself afterward.  For example, you might be the kind of person who feels better getting them out of the way first so you can spend the rest of your day doing other things.  Or you might do them right before your morning break and then grab a cup of coffee as your “reward.”  Or do them at the end of the day and then listen to your favorite music or podcast to de-stress on the drive home.  Obviously this suggestion will only work in certain jobs and with certain killer skills.

  2. In rare situations, you might have the freedom to explore reallocating tasks.  Everyone has different killer skills, and the things you hate might be things that energize your colleague (and vice versa).

  3. See if it’s possible to reframe the tasks that require your killer skills into something less stressful.  For example, if you dread giving presentations because you hate all eyes being on you, you might try thinking about presentations as ways to teach your colleagues or customers about something that will help them.  Your focus can then shift from yourself to them, and you might even create a more interactive, conversational-type presentation that is more likely to resonate with your audience and allow you to feel more comfortable in the process.  Another example might be a salesperson who hates the pressure of meeting sales quotas.  Focusing on another aspect of the job – like being personable and building relationships – might increase your enjoyment of the work and might actually make you a better salesperson in the process.

  4. If there’s nothing you can do to change your current killer skills usage and if you think those skills are taking a toll on your emotional and physical health, you might decide to explore changing jobs or careers.  Perhaps you’re a teacher and you still love the field of education but decide to move into an administrative role so you have less work to take home at night.  Or maybe you’re in the medical field and come to the conclusion that you’d be much happier in something completely different, like realty.

If you decide a transition seems best, make time to research various careers, outline your goals, and take stock of both your killer skills and the skills that actually energize you.  Do as much legwork as you can to ensure that your next job will involve fewer of your killer skills and that the potential benefits of a career transition outweigh the risks.  And if you’re planning to stay right where you are, remember that we all have killer skills and identifying yours is the first step to reducing their negative impact on your life.  




Brennfleck, K. & Brennfleck, K. M. (2005). Live your calling: A practical guide to finding and fulfilling your mission in life.  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.