Take strength from your experiences
Transferable skills are a core set of abilities that can be applied to different jobs and industries. They give us career flexibility and act as a strong foundation. They include the things we’ve learnt in education, previous positions, voluntary work, hobbies and life in general. Never underestimate how much you already know!
Before I get started, I’d just like to say I think they hold the key to so much more than simply career advancement. This is something I’m noticing in my coaching practice when my clients reflect on their previous experience. It’s exciting when we realise we have all the answers and maybe even a few superpowers!
‘By developing the ability to explore and be curious about our own experience and actions, we suddenly open up the possibilities of purposeful learning – derived not from books or experts, but from our work and our lives.’ – Joy Amulya
Transferable skills have helped me to change my career and to build a freelance business. For example, my skills enabled me to move from retail to the art world and from the art world to educational fundraising. The same set of skills were valuable in three different work sectors and they continue to serve me today. But more about that in a moment.
Focus on what you’ve achieved
There are many reasons why you might wish to consider your life experience and transferable skills. Maybe you’re searching for a new job, wishing to change your career, looking to develop your existing skills or wanting to build a business or to work freelance. Whatever your motivation or objective here is a little exercise for you to try.
‘Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.’ Chinese Proverb
Take a moment to list the skills that relate to your chosen objective. For example, if you’re considering moving into fundraising you may wish to include interpersonal skills, project management, customer services and marketing. From this list, expand each header to include examples from your experience. Consider all the things you’ve achieved and don’t forget your hobbies, any voluntary work and training courses.
This is also a good exercise if you’d like to boost your self-confidence. When we take a little time to reflect, we’re often better qualified and more experienced than we give ourselves credit for. Taking the time to explore our skills and experience can enable us to see what we already have and use it to our advantage.
Build on your experience
Another way our transferable skills can serve us is by building on our previous experience. After all, there’s no point in starting from scratch if we already have the necessary skills in our toolkit!
‘Don’t underestimate yourself. You are capable of more than you can ever imagine.’ Les Brown
So today I’m sharing ten things I’ve learnt during my career and implemented into my current freelance business. A process that encourages us to look at our work experience from a place of gratitude, celebrating the positives and enjoying the wisdom they’ve bestowed on us.
Over the years, I’ve worked in different industries and managed many wonderful staff and volunteers. There have been some amazing highs and some fierce lows, but I’ve always tried to learn something from each scenario – no matter how much of a challenge it was at the time!
Drilling down into the life and work experience we’ve collected is insightful and it will undoubtedly uncover a whole set of values and beliefs which can support us in making decisions. The better our self-awareness, the easier it is to be truly authentic in the work we do.
1. Take regular breaks
I champion the importance of taking regular breaks and holidays, not only have I seen my staff thrive after taking time out, but I’ve also seen it in my own productivity. I love implementing effective ways to work smarter and not harder, so I always create time and space to pause, reflect and recharge.
2. Display my goals
It’s easy to get bogged down with the day to day running of a business, so keeping my goals to hand enables me to stay on track. Displaying my goals works as a daily reminder, and when my life and work get busy they keep me focused on the bigger picture. (More: practical tips to help you reach your goals.)
3. Meet people in the same industry
I’ve never worried about competitors because I think working together and sharing experiences is of enormous value. When I worked at Modern Art Oxford, I regularly met people at other art organisations and as a store manager, I caught up with fellow business owners.
There’s so much to be gained from talking to your peers – you can share experiences, offer advice and support one another on. And spending time with people who are further along in their career can be a game changer. (More: the inspiration and joy of creative friendships.)
4. Make space for personal development
I always seek out ways to build on my skills and stay up to date in my field. Personal development can be found in a range of resources including books, podcasts, e-courses, conferences and training courses, blogs, coaching and further education. Even when I’m busy I make sure I’m scheduling in time to grow and develop my skills.
5. Value every connection
I’ve attended and delivered many customer service courses. Delivering impeccable service is something I champion, especially after managing Ladies Personal Shopping at Selfridges, London – the ultimate luxury shopping experience!
Everyone we meet through our work – both on and offline – is a customer, potential customer or even a future colleague. It’s therefore valuable to treat everyone as we would like to be treated – even if perhaps they don’t extend us the same courtesy!
6. Make changes and try new things
As a store manager, I enjoyed visual merchandising and creating window displays. Whenever we were having a slow day or I was concerned we wouldn’t reach our target, I’d move things around. Often all it took was a refresh of the old stock to result in a flurry of sales.
Nowadays when things are slow or I feel unmotivated I get out of my comfort zone, try new things, make changes and experiment. (More: the importance of trying new things.)
7. We rarely feel ready
Most of my previous positions included event management and I learnt that no matter how much planning I did I never felt ready. With most situations, you can prepare up to a point and then you just have to jump in and learn as you go along.
8. You will not please everyone
I can’t think of many jobs that don’t involve a customer and having worked in retail management, I’ve had more than my fair share of customer complaints! Although I dislike the phrase, ‘the customer is always right,’ it’s good to listen, ask the customer what they would like, try to put things right and move on. You can’t please everyone so it’s good not to waste too much time on the complainers. That said, it’s always valuable to welcome constructive feedback.
9. Nail the business basics
Whether it’s getting an accountant, taking out business insurance, learning about health and safety or developing my skills, I feel it’s important to invest in myself and my business. This enables everything to run (relatively!) smoothly and it also means I can identify the risks. When running a business, it’s always nice to have one less thing to worry about. (More: five things I did before I quit my day job.)
10. Don’t sweat the small stuff
I try not to put too much pressure on myself or be overly critical if things go wrong. There are always valuable lessons to be learnt from failure and most of all it can enable growth. It’s wise to focus on and celebrate our successes and not to dwell on our mistakes.
And finally, the best thing about our life experience and transferable skills is they make us unique. So, embrace what you know, be grateful for where you are and open to who you’re becoming. After all who knows what skills you’ll be able to add to your toolkit today!
Thank you, as always, for stopping by. I hope you have an inspiring day.