A common misconception: “Translating my transferable skills will be enough for me to find a career in which I’ll be fulfilled.”
Twisting the Translation
Okay, I actually like this twisted translation of We Don’t Talk About Bruno!!
A lot of people focus on their skills and matching them to keywords in job adverts. Essentially, they translate their skills to the job market.
You’ve been working at a high level in your university/company/organization for a while.
So, I bet you’ve learned to match your skills and vision to your employer’s vision. You’ve done this for so long, it’s second nature.
But if you’re anything like me, you’ve had to work hard at that, because I’m the epitome of a square peg trying to fit in a round hole.
So now you’ve written down your skills based on person specifications or job specifications, but it feels like an exercise in using a dictionary to translate a song into Spanish but what does it actually mean!!??
Not much, because you’re missing you. Your unique self with all of your experiences and your identity.
Down with Fitting In
I never liked fitting in. At the IWD a few years ago, I made a speech and then hula hooped to prove my point!! (I was also voted ‘most unique’ in high school, which is a strange phrase… but then I was also voted ‘loudest sneezer’ and ‘nicest smile’ so I guess I am very [verbally] expressive haha!)
When it came time to finding a job when I left academia, I felt it was soul-destroying to read through person specifications and job adverts, and try to fit into them with the things I had done before.
Matching experiences and guessing at my transferable skills like I was playing a game of Guess Who? And then meeting with recruiters and asking 20 questions to glean what they were looking for. Was I it?
But I then realized: why should I try to round my edges to fit into the round hole. Why can’t they be flexible and allow for people’s whole, authentic selves to fit?
Pegs and holes are not for people: People are way more complex than categories allow (I’ll show you a picture of me going to a Team Dresch music gig in the 90s!).
I realized long ago that I had been neglecting an important core strength of mine.
One that had it been flexed and not let to atrophy, would bring me joy and fulfilment.
When I was younger, I went to gigs to listen to all kinds of music, which was easy living on Long Island – a short trip to Manhattan. I also took art history classes once I arrived at university. I wrote fictional novellas, short stories, and poetry. I also had a variety of jobs, some of which sparked my creative mind, such as my work for Warner Bros Records, Tower Records, Carvel Ice Cream, and Taco Bell (created a really yummy off-menu item!).
But in academia, I channeled my creativity into science, essentially kissing my poetry and fiction writing goodbye. For a while, I found it interesting to try to redirect my creative side to writing about scientific things in new ways. Indeed, art is great for that very thing: to take something people may already think they know, but to make them appreciate it in a wholly new way.
Art is wholesome food to feed the mind!
I started teaching writing workshops which students found inspiring and motivating. I won a prize. Maybe I’ll go back to that one day, but for now coaching is giving my creativity a jolt.
I’ve found a poem I wrote some years ago that seems to be a pre-exploration of my current path, to leave behind what I had previously considered safe – an academic job.
With eyes open, I can see that I wanted to opt for peril – or at least what my colleagues decided was peril – to leave behind the academic career so that I could live a life of creativity, freedom, and meaning.
It’s not perilous; it’s the unique forging ahead that I need in my life. It may be brave, but all change takes a slice of bravery.
As one of my favorite movie quotes says “You must sink your teeth into the ass of life!”
The safe option is the clever option
A palette coloured by books and obtuse texts.
Make your mind match this palette
Please, it’s what’s best for you
The safe option was denying a swing
The playful jump at the peak
Landing softly like a bird
Dropping from a quietly stimulating flight
Safe was a haven
The sensible decision
Endorsed by others
Who had swallowed the adulting-pill long ago
The safe option was “growing up”
Looking beyond a horizon of poverty
To a sure-thing future
Of business smiles and everyday jargon
Explain to me:
Why would one want to create
To dream up new synergies of words
Ones that populate a palette
Rather than simply being dictated by existing ones?
I opt for peril.
Authenticity and Ambition
It took me a long time to get the courage to make a change and really be honest with myself. It took being okay with an identity change. Getting out of my EGO was important!
And you know what didn’t work, which I know most coaches use!?
Evaluating my knacks (skills & experiences)! Knowing your knacks only works if you can become aware of your values and purpose. Otherwise, you end up in another organization or job role that might fulfil you for a few months but starts to feel heavy and you begin to feel weary.
To get where I am took a lot of work. I have had 3 coaches, a counsellor, and a therapist help me to my current place. They helped me to see more patterns to my thoughts and habits that I would not have seen myself.
Pivoting with Purpose
Have you avoided the conversation with yourself about what you really want? You know what you don’t want – a toxic workplace, being exploited and ground down by the system. But what do you want?
Have you a clear vision on what you want to do and what you want to contribute?
Recruiters respond to a candidate that has a story to tell of who they are and they often want to know if your values match the organization you’re applying to.
If they don’t match, then once you get the job, it might not be what you wanted and you’re back to flip-flopping to another, in hopes it’s the right one.
You might fit your skills to their search terms but what about your vision and identity?
You can’t leave yourself behind!
Once you connect with your values, everything else clicks into place.
You stop apologizing for who you are. You go into the job market or promotion interview with a sense of WHY you’re there. The skills and experiences are then the backbone to your values and purpose.
And if you find that the job is not right for your values, then you will find the one that will be.
Love yourself enough to have the courage to know yourself.
The important thing is for you to take the time to find your story – the one that gives your life meaning – before you simply react to a toxic job by finding the next one. You need time to heal and find yourself again.
Once you’ve done the work on yourself, rediscovering yourself and your identity and vision, you can communicate it clearly to others.
You might also learn that these employers need you more than you need (read: want) them.
This can save you lots of time since you then won’t be applying to every job that matches your skill set. That is, you can decide if they are right for your current career path. If not, don’t apply!
Authenticity is Empowerment
Take away these 4 things:
⚡️You have loads of value to offer!
⚡️ Jobs are abundant!
⚡️ You can be choosy!
⚡️ You don’t need to be beholden to capitalism!
You are allowed to walk away from an offer.
You are allowed to say ‘no’.
You are allowed to prioritize yourself and your needs.
I remember reading this article about when to say ‘no’ to a job/career. It resonated with me because the job I had signed up to was not what I thought it would be.
I found it difficult to have an impact in the research work, but also have that acknowledged as valuable by my employer. The work with school mental health, the work with police and infantry training, the work with decolonizing education.
I also wrote about saying ‘no’ as a way to empower and prioritize yourself.
Writing down and reflecting on how your time use aligns with your priorities and commitments to change is one of the most useful things to do.
My future goals are to ensure that every week, I commit to filling my calendar with all the things that align with what matters to me. I hope you feel inspired to do the same, because that will bring clarity to what career you’d like to do next when you notice what make you happy.
Find joy in the process of growth, discovery, and exploration. Exploration and discovery can help you uncover a new you because you are testing what brings you fulfilment.
— All the thinking in the world won’t do that.
— All the searching through LinkedIn and looking at job adverts and their specifications of skills won’t do that.
— You won’t know what will bring fulfilment without unleashing your discovery mode!