Sydney Fine's Types of Skills: Differences, Importances & Examples

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Sidney Fine's categories of skills show us everything from what people know to how they work. In this lesson, we'll explore his three categories of skills and look at their importance and differences.

Hiring for Knowledge or Skills?

A hiring manager is interviewing three candidates for a coveted sales professional job that just came available at a successful pharmaceutical sales company in Denver. After sorting through resumes and conducting preliminary phone interviews, Doris has called in the three candidates for face-to-face meetings.

She has selected three candidates who are vastly different:

  • Trey's application is full of tidbits about the knowledges he has gained from a varied and impressive education and employment background.
  • Martin's resume illustrates his self-management skills of dependability and resourcefulness. This speaks to who he is as a person.
  • Monique appears to be highly skilled in transferable skills; that is, things she has picked up in her years of working such as bringing people together and being highly adaptable.

Each of these candidates portrays one of the different types of skills proposed by researcher Sidney Fine. Fine developed these categories that represent skills picked up from years of education, work or job training, in conjunction with a project for the U.S. Department of Labor. Fine believed that skills could be classified as transferable, self-management or special knowledges.

Fine Skills

What's the difference between these three candidates and why are their skills important? Let's meet these candidates and learn more.


Knowledges, or special knowledges, refers to information you have learned and retained pertinent to a specific field. A mechanic who owns his own shop, for example, has special knowledge of what type of brake pads go on a 2017 Ford Explorer, as well as how to install them. This may come from specialized training and years of learning on the job.

For Trey, our candidate from earlier, his special knowledge is related to a specific industry he worked in previously: marketing. He is well-versed in building marketing campaigns and graphic design and had formal training in social media management and gamification.

Knowledges are important to the field they relate to, but might not be useful if Trey pursues a career in a different field. While growing your general knowledge is always good, special knowledge differs from both transferable and self-management skills, because it may not be as easily shifted to a new career path.

Self-management skills

Self-management skills, like the ones Martin's resume exhibits, shows how you do things. For Martin, that may be conveyed in how he showed his dependability on a large project or exhibited his resourcefulness when budget constraints created challenges for his department.

These types of skills are often about how you handle yourself or how you deal with others: your initiative, patience, perceptiveness or enthusiasm. Self-management skills travel with a person from job to job because these illustrate who the person is inherently. These skills are not relative to a specific job, but can be used in any type of job. Self-management skills will remain important in any type of industry because it speaks to how you do your job and how successful you might be, personally and professionally.

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, probably demonstrates several important self-management skills such as innovation, adaptability and self-confidence.

Transferable skills

When you think about transferable skills, think about those skills you can use in a host of situations. Monique for example, has the skills of being able to bring people together and being highly adaptable in a variety of scenarios. These skills were important in Monique's old career in real estate, but would be equally as useful if she lands this sales job. There will always be a need to bring people together and to be flexible, in any type of work setting.

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