Plowing further into our series on career change and reinvention, we come to a simple question that many who have considered making a change have asked themselves in one shape or form:
“Can I do this?”
Of course, this question means a variety of different things.
Do I have the skills to do what I want?
If I don’t have the skills, how easy will it be to learn them?
Do I have to go back to school? What if I don’t want to go back to school?
Can I afford to make this change financially?
Will my family support me?
Can I really put in the time to make this work?
Am I even qualified to do anything other than what I currently do?
That four-word question—Can I do this?—isn’t really simple at all, right? It is multi-dimensional, loaded with all sorts of other questions that we sometimes never get around to voicing out. Let alone answering.
In this series, we will tackle many of the other unspoken questions and doubts that crowd our mind as we try to make a decision about the direction we want or are called to take.
On this post, though, we will deal with one slice of this question: the portion of the can-I-do-this-debate that relates to skills.
As in, “Do I have the skills to do this thing that I want to do? What if I don’t have the skills? Am I really even qualified to do anything else?”
I often find myself pointing out to others—as I remind myself of it as well—that the skills we picked up and honed doing one kind of job are portable.
It’s easy and natural to look at our list of talents and skills through the filter of our current job. Now, we have to see (and believe!) that these same skills will be applicable and useful in a different field of work.
Get To Know What You’re Already Good At
Here’s one thing I suggest: Start a skills list.
Remember to include skills you learned on the job, in addition to those you learned from school or other structured training.
You may find yourself focusing initially on technical skills that your current job requires. While that’s a good start, make sure you expand your list by adding what’s normally referred to as “soft skills”.
You are very powerful, provided you know how powerful you are. —Yogi Bhajan
You may also want to consider other people’s input. Ask your boss what he considers to be your strengths.
Ask your team or colleagues about the kinds of activities or projects where your involvement or advice would naturally be wanted.
Think about situations when your family and friends asked for your help. Do you see a pattern?
You may be surprised by the breadth of your talents and skills.
Maybe, your compilation will not reveal anything new. That’s okay. At the very least, creating a skills list will help confirm that unique skill set—your very own toolkit— that only you bring to the table.
Sometimes You Need New Skills
Okay, let’s be real. There are times when you will need to learn new skills.
The great thing about the world we live in today is that there are endless opportunities for learning and picking up new skills. Many of these options are free or inexpensive, so it’s virtually impossible not to learn—if you want to learn, that is.
Here are a few practical steps you can take to start this ball rolling:
- Conduct some research on your desired career (or new job or project). Read up. Very important here: talk to people who are already doing this work.
- List the skills that you need to effectively do the new job or enter the new world. Flag the ones that are most critical (meaning you’ll need those skills to get your foot in the door).
- Identify any gaps you may have between your list of skills and the critical list that you flagged in #2 above.
- Consider different avenues to learn these skills: online courses, local workshops, books, how-to videos on YouTube, hiring a coach for a specific skill, and volunteering. You can even look into your current job and see if there’s a way to learn those new skills while you’re still in your world today.
Going Back to School
Sometimes you may need to go back to school to pick up new skills. Some technical skills are best learned by going through a traditional learning environment. And certain careers require certifications and licenses in order to practice, and those usually come after completing the required education.
When I was in my twenties and thirties, the big thing was getting an MBA to advance your career. The world has changed dramatically since those days, and our views about traditional education have evolved as well. These days, many people think graduate programs are money-sucking machines that provide little value in the real world.
Certainly, think about going back to school when it is the only avenue that can provide you with the training you need to learn the required skills.
Otherwise, consider other ways where you can learn and practice instead.
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
Henry Ford was credited with the above quote.
Your mindset no doubt, influences how you answer the “Can I do this?” question. And we will tackle this later in this series.
There are, however, practical aspects related to skills and qualifications that you will want to address, sooner or later. It helps to keep an objective view. If you find yourself needing significant additional training, you may want to bounce this off someone.
Make sure you’re not using the need for additional skills as a crutch or a seemingly valid excuse to delay a decision and to move forward with a career change.
This week, consider the following steps:
- Answer the question “What am I already good at?” Start your skills list as described above.
- Next, brainstorm on the skills you may need to pursue the career direction you want to take. Be selective and try and focus on the most immediate skills, i.e., the ones you’ll need right out of the gate.
- Is there a gap? How large is the gap?
Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Break Free: The Courage To Reinvent Yourself And Your Career is now available on Amazon, in print and Kindle versions. It is all about helping you make the critical decision to take command of your career direction so you can build the one you want. You can click here to learn more about it.