A surprisingly large number of people are unhappy with their job. They turn up every day, do enough to earn their money, and then head home again each night. Every week or fortnight, they receive their pay, much of which probably disappears on bills. If that sounds like you, you have probably dreamed about changing to some type of work you enjoy, something that pays better and gives you satisfaction.
The problem is that virtually every exciting job that pays at least a living wage requires skills. You may feel you are underqualified. Perhaps you think that you are stuck in your dead-end job. Or maybe you don’t have a job at all, feeling lost in the benefit cycle.
If you have a particular type of job you’d like to try, one of the first things you need to do is to discover what skills you need to succeed at the position. To be honest, you only need to know what skills you need to win the job initially. You can always build additional skill levels later, either with on-the-job training or by taking suitable courses.
But, even if you don’t yet know the type of job you should target, you should spend time working out the skills you already possess. What skills do you have that could help your reinvention?
What Are Skills?
We hear about skills every day. You build up skills as you go through life. Some are basic and essential to a good life – we often call these life skills. Others are more specific to a particular task. Most job-related skills relate to a certain job or industry.
We aren’t born with skills. These are not our innate qualities. You develop and learn skills as you age, through your life and employment experiences.
Some skills appear natural – or at least they do once you have mastered them. As a child, you probably stressed over not being able to tie your shoelaces. Once you learned this task, it probably became something you did every day without conscious thought. It is easy to take these fundamental skills for granted, but it is important to remember that there was a time when you hadn’t mastered the task. There would even have been a time when you didn’t know how to change the television channel or make a piece of toast.
Other skills are complex. These include some life skills. I learned to drive at 15 (40 years ago), and I do remember having difficulty mastering all the complications of driving a car on a public road. To be honest, I still can’t honestly say I have managed the skill of parallel parking (and have probably done it only a few times in my life).
You will have already mastered quite a few skills in your life – probably more than you realise. But there are many more skills that you haven’t yet learned. In some cases this may be because you have no interest in mastering them – I have never wished to play the violin, for instance. In other cases, it may be because you lack a natural aptitude to learn a skill – as much as I loved cricket, I could never bowl anything other than a wild leg spin that was more likely to hit a slips fielder directly than it was to get a batsman out. But most of the skills you haven’t mastered are ones that you will never need. I can’t design a house because I have never had a reason to do so.
What Skills Do I Have?
If you are unhappy in your job, or just don’t have one, then you need to think about what skills you have that could help you improve your position. You might be surprised by how many of your existing skills you can transfer to a new, better job.
For a start, you will hopefully have the necessary employability skills that every employer looks for. These skills sometimes blur with attitudes – but they are things that you can learn. You may find that you struggle with some of these currently. It is well worth working on improving these though. Employers often take a punt on new people with good employability skills ahead of people with better technical skills.
Typical employability skills include:
- Communication skills
- The ability to think positively
- Able to work in a team
- Good self-management
- Preparedness to learn
- Logical and independent thinking skills
- Resilience – you don’t give up when things don’t work out
You might think that your employability skills are soft skills – but they are essential.
I was a teacher for 26 years. One of the most annoying things I found with that our students compartmentalised their subjects. Too often, they thought that stuff you learned in Maths was only for Maths. If you learned it in English, it stayed in English.
As a Business teacher, I had to push my students to transfer the skills they learned in one subject to other subjects. They may have first learned how to write a letter in English, but that skill was just as relevant to my Business classes. Likewise, those kids who learned how to design in their Art classes, were invaluable when it came to putting together marketing for my students’ small businesses. Accounting students who knew how to use MYOB were able to set up the accounts for their group’s business and control the team’s finances.
We build up transferable skills throughout our lives. The hard part is convincing potential employers that we have these skills. At my low point, I applied or a job that was basically photocopying. I was turned down for it for because I lacked office experience – yet I had photocopied all of my own resources, including the books I wrote, throughout my teaching year, and probably knew more about the practicalities of operating a copier than most office staff.
You might have discovered that you have a head for numbers. There are numerous jobs where that skill is essential. If you managed to motivate and lead people in one position, the odds are you will be just of capable of this in an entirely different industry.
Specialist and Job-Related Skills
You will have developed job-related skills over your career. Even a new job seeker will have built some specialist job skills in his or her training, or even in his/her interests and hobbies.
As a teacher, I naturally learned how to manage a class of teenagers (albeit with difficulty at times). I learned how to plan lessons, how to pace them, and how to deliver them in such a way as to interest my audience. I personally built up a skills bank in resource creation, both the writing of resources and the physical production of them.
The longer I worked in Education, the more skills I learned. I learned how to write an exam, and also how to mark it correctly. I became a Head of Department, so had to learn a whole new batch of skills, relating to personnel management.
With my change in career, I have had to develop skills in writing, SEO, social media, and design.
I even once learned how to drive a van between cities delivering kitchen doors, in such a way that I never got lost and managed to keep the doors in an undamaged condition.
You constantly build up specialist and job-related skills over your lifetime. Many of these become transferable skills. I have used numerous of the skills learnt in my educational years in my more recent writing career.
Analyse Your Skills to Help You with Your Reinvention
Don’t feel that you are stuck. You can always move ahead. From the moment you opened your eyes for the first time, you started to build up your skills bank.
In particular, don’t forget those employability and transferable skills. Work on perfecting your employability skills. We can always improve ourselves here. In many ways, a willingness to learn is most important. If you are prepared to improve yourself, then you can always put yourself in a better position.