What do you think of when you think about the skills you have? Good listener, attention to detail, responsible. Sure, these ‘skills’ take up space on a resume, but what do they really mean, and, do these skills really apply to you?
This week’s blog isn’t just about skills. It’s about turning something you don’t have into something you do. This aligns perfectly with the frequently asked question, “What is your greatest weakness?”, because it’s all about the title of this blog.
Let’s think this through. Sometimes it’s as easy to see as an elephant playing the trombone, whereas other times it’s hard to see, like a lake in a desert. It’s a matter of perspective- how you perceive your skills, and how you market yourself with those skills and qualities.
For the purpose of this blog, we are going to use two make-believe profile students. We have Janet, the engineering major, and Carl, the social sciences major.
Janet is in a program that focuses on engineering-related skills. She gets hands on experience through her course work and has never had a part-time job to obtain other, ‘transferable’ skills, but she has learned those skills (time management, team work, goal setting / accomplishment, report-writing) through group work and everyday interactions. She volunteers at a local performing arts theater where she has been exposed to the thespian world.
Carl is in a program that focuses on helping people. Being in the social sciences degree field, he can adapt to either continue his education to get his, Master’s, Doctorate, or PhD, seek a job in case management or go into Social Work (disclaimer: these are just a few suggestions, and do not imply that this is all that someone in this field is limited to doing). He has had an internship shadowing in a behavioral health office, working with children with cognitive disabilities, and a part-time job as a sandwich artist at a local Subway, where he has learned many skills, such as customer service, patience, inventory management, time management, report writing, and teamwork.
Now, looking at the different profiles of these two students, they both have transferable skills. What are transferable skills, you say?
According to Flexjobs.com, “Most people have heard of transferable skills. Some people actually know what they are. Very few people actually know which ones they have and how to use them….. [they are] skills that can be applied in various situations”.
They are skills that you build every day, just like Janet and Carl (does anyone else read this like Rick would yell it in The Walking Dead?) did.
What we as Consultants in The Career Center see a lot of in students is the lack of confidence in those skills. Someone once said to me, “well, yeah, I have customer service skills, but how is that going to get me a job?” True story, this statement came out of someone’s mouth. It’s simple- it starts with confidence.
Imagine Carl’s customer service experiences at Subway. I’m sure there were some unpleasant ones, but it’s possible those unpleasant experiences taught him conflict management, conflict resolution, or even negotiation skills. These are all transferable skills. It goes back full circle to the title of this blog: turning what you don’t have into what you do have.
Let’s take this in a different direction. Janet is getting her degree in civil engineering, but she really wants to jump start her acting career (the engineering degree is just a ‘side thing’). She likes the idea of acting because it gives her a chance to be someone she’s not through a character. Now, audience, riddle me this: how could she possibly market herself to get a call for an acting gig?
Simple. Market herself with the necessary skills for the position that she has. Note, I emphasize has because if she didn’t have those traits and she put down she did, the agency would know pretty immediately if she was lying (it takes roughly 30 seconds for an employers to gauge who you are in person versus on paper).
Janet understands the way theater works:
- She’s worked behind-the-scenes, and, enjoys practicing at home.
- She dabbled a little in high school theater but always got small roles.
- She may not seem outgoing but she sure can act like it!
- Janet has the experience to work well in a team
- She can think and act quickly (from her experiences with troubleshooting her projects- great for improv if your co-actor forgets their lines!)
- The ability to memorize lines, which she learned from all of her reading
Side note: these skills and abilities were taken directly from job descriptions on O*NET.
So there you have it- two people who took skills from other experiences and made them relevant. It’s hard to do, but again, you have to have the confidence to get there.