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  1. Why you should take stock of your transferable skills

    October 18, 2016 by Alison Hill

    It was heartbreaking to read about the despair some workers felt when car makers closed down their factories earlier this month. Workers were on average 50 years old, had spent 20 years working for one company, and felt they did not have the skills to find work elsewhere.

    While it is true that manufacturing in Australia is in decline, everybody has transferable skills – those that are developed across the lifespan in both work and non-work settings. Being able to use those skills in a different setting can open up a host of job opportunities, but first you must identify them and value them as much as a prospective employer might.

    You definitely have transferable skills

    Doing any job involves many skills over and above those required to accomplish core tasks, and some skills are useful in almost every job.  Skills are different to attributes, and the good news is that you can learn and develop them. You may have acquired transferable skills by participating in the health and safety committee in your office, or by being a member of a social committee. Putting on a great Christmas party, for example, could help you into a career in events if you are able to connect the skills you learnt to an employer’s requirements.

    Outside of work, you may have played a sport, or belonged to a school or community organisation, or be involved in a hobby. These will have given you transferable skills that you can bring to the workplace in a new role. Anybody who has kids will know that being a parent teaches many skills, such as patience, perseverance, and negotiation, to name just three. A parent returning to the workforce can name these skills to increase their likelihood of success.

    Some things you might have learnt to do, such as fixing a computer or coding your own website, are technical skills, while others are ‘soft’ skills that will always be in demand, like the ability to communicate well, delegate tasks or resolve conflicts. Whether you have learnt these on the job in another workplace or in your non-working life, they are valuable skills that will give you the edge in any job application.

    Why transferable skills matter

    Your set of transferable skills will help you in different ways at different points in your career. When you are starting out, your time as netball captain or bass player in a band can show your prospective employer that you have good team skills and can co-operate with others. Your part-time job in a supermarket demonstrates that you know about customer service, and even the hours spent playing DOTA will have taught you about teamwork and cooperation.

    For those who are looking to change careers, transferable skills are crucial. Being able to research and analyse, for example, transfers well from an academic job to a range of roles in a commercial enterprise.

    Anybody re-entering the workforce after a break will need to call on their transferable skills as many occupation-based skills will have become obsolete. Even if all the organisation’s billing is now automated or outsourced, the ability to work magic with a spreadsheet still has a range of applications.

    What are your transferable skills?

    Take some time to make a list of your transferable skills and how they can be helpful to you in your future career. Do you know a second or a third language? That can be a huge advantage in today’s globalised workplace. Are you a writer in your spare time? Or are you really good at setting goals and motivating people in your running group?

    Once you have listed them, think about how you can use them. It may be to help you write a good resume, or to identify career opportunities you hadn’t considered. Your list might reveal gaps in your skills that you could address with a short course or on-the-job training.

    When you are applying for a job, the position description will contain a list of the skills the employer is looking for. Match your transferable skills to the requirements of the position, with a specific example. If, for instance, you co-ordinated the fete at your child’s school and you are applying for a role involving project management, link the skills you used to run the event with the requirements to be able to lead a team, communicate and manage risk. Use your cover letter to explain how your transferable skills match the requirements of the job description.

    Here are some of the most in-demand transferable skills. How many do you have?

    Interpersonal skills: relate well to others • motivates others • good at resolving conflict • team player

    Organisational skills: setting and meeting goals • time management • following up • meeting deadlines • planning

    Leadership skills: team building • delegating • innovative • motivating • decision-making • strategic thinking

    Communication skills: presentation • simplifying • writing and editing • persuading • teaching

    You can work at the skills you have and learn new ones, either by informal learning in your free time or with a mentor, or by enrolling in short courses, webinars and workplace learning programs.

    Managers can support their teams by encouraging and sponsoring members to take courses in areas that will both add to their transferable skills and make them more effective team members.

    Document what you learn and how it might transfer into a different role than the one you have now. And be ready to use your transferable skills in a new setting when the time is right.


  2. How to create and deliver a presentation that is worth sitting through

    August 16, 2016 by Alison Hill

    A friend in the financial services industry told me about a webinar she signed up for, and what a waste of time it was. I’m sure you can relate: after about 20 minutes she took a break and made herself a coffee. When she came back, the same slide was on her screen and the presentation had hardly moved along. She gave up and went back to her work.

    Mostly we’re not able to clock out of boring presentations. Either we need the information to do our jobs properly, or we are stuck in a meeting room with no way out. Most of us will be on the other side of the audience at some time, and have to present to others in the workplace. Knowledge-sharing is a vital part of work these days, and most of us will be called on to give a talk or slide presentation, or to create a webinar or instructional video at some time.

    Whatever method you use, here are some guidelines to follow and some handy resources to help you.

    1. Get straight to the point, preferably with a good story

    So many presentations – particularly webinars – have long introductions that add nothing to the experience. Hook your audience early with a pithy introduction and preferably with a good story that makes them care. There’s nothing like a human angle to get the audience involved. My financial adviser friend recalled the story of a retailer with no business interruption insurance. A car went through the shopfront, smashing the glass and ruining expensive equipment, which was covered, and closing the shop for a month, which was not. That got her attention much more than a statistic about lost trading revenue could ever have.

    1. Know who your audience is

    Actually, this should have been point one. You can’t deliver a good presentation if you don’t know who you are talking to. It affects everything from what technical terms to use (see point 4) to how long you will talk for and what visuals you will use. Take a page from the marketing playbook and create a ‘persona’ representing your typical audience member. How old are they? What do they do in their spare time? What do they already know about your subject? Why do they need to know about your topic? Do some research before you make the presentation, and then tailor what you have to say to that persona.

    A word of warning: it’s annoying to poll the audience at the start of your session and then not act on what you find. Countless webinars ‘poll’ the audience and then do squat to adapt the content to suit those findings. Either be prepared to adapt your talk, or don’t ask. Your audience will only feel ignored and tune out if you fail to respond to their needs.

    1. Don’t overcrowd your presentation with bullet points and endless slides

    Death by PowerPoint – we’ve all been there. There is no point in putting up slides filled with endless bullet points and reading them to the audience; not in person, and not online. Your audience will read your slides rather than listen to you, and they can read faster than you can speak. Use slide presentations to highlight the main points you will talk to and make sure they are interesting. We couldn’t say it any better than in this presentation about great PowerPoint presentations by designer Damon Nofar.

    1. Don’t use excessively technical jargon or in-house terms

    My finance professional told me how she attended a seminar dealing with legal issues in financial advice. ‘When the presenter used terms I didn’t know, I felt really out of touch. I felt dumb until I looked around the room and saw nearly everybody else looking awkward, and realised it wasn’t just me.’ The lesson is that if you have to use technical terms, explain them clearly in words that match the knowledge and experience of your audience.

    1. Use your ordinary speaking voice and put your self into the presentation

    Most of the time, presentations do not need to sound like a formal oration. It’s not the school debating society, nor the Gettysburg address. Put your true self out there and you will be much more likely to connect with the audience.

    1. Mind your professional manners

    My financial friend told me how at an industry event she attended, presenters had cracked ‘jokes’ about their competition in the industry, naming the organisations. Far from making her feel more positive about the presenter’s organisation, she was shocked by their lack of professional manners. Whether you are presenting internally or externally, slagging off the competition, be it another company or another team, adds nothing to your presentation. Bad jokes, in-jokes and snide remarks reflect badly on your professionalism.

    1. Create a strategy to deal with questions

    Think about your pace and how to engage your audience. Reading slides out in a monotone is not going to do it. Giving the audience a chance to ask questions, stopping to ask or answer questions yourself and periodically checking the audience’s understanding helps to keep people tuned in.

    Questions and answers need to be controlled, however. We’ve all been in a presentation where an audience member takes up the group’s time with questions that are not relevant to the rest of us. ‘I was impressed by a presenter who could deflect unhelpful questions’, my financial adviser friend told me. ‘He offered to collect all the questions and answer them at the end if his presentation hadn’t answered them, and dealt with important ones as he went along. He struck a good balance between being engaging and taking up too much time with things that were not interesting to most of us.’

    1. Call on the professionals

    Challenge Consulting’s People Services runs Presenting with Impact workshops on presentation skills, as well as a presentation skills test for candidates.

    Copyright-free images to use in your slides are available on many sites, including Pixabay.  Easy-to-use graphic design site Canva helps with images and infographics. Both can be used for free. Prezi is a great alternative to PowerPoint. There are plenty more learning resources and tools out there. Use them to make your presentations sing.


  3. The insider’s guide to learning new skills at work

    May 31, 2016 by Alison Hill

    Whether you want to develop in your current position or you have set your sights on a new role, effective skills development takes planning and commitment to making time to learn or upgrade your skills. The world of online learning has made this a bit easier, and there are good courses to do in your ‘free’ time with this flexible approach.

    When planning your approach, start with any mandatory professional education requirements, such as courses designed to help you to comply with licencing conditions. Use professional websites to identify what’s on during the year, and commit to a timetable of helpful sessions, so that you’re not scrambling around for those last points at the end of the year.

    Then identify areas that you want to learn more about. It might be something identified in your performance review, or an area in which you realise your skills have fallen behind. You may see that a new skill could lead to a promotion or even a coveted new role.

    These are some of the courses we have found helpful and which you can jump into now to upgrade your skills.

    For upgrading your business writing skills, the Australian Writers Centre offers a one-day course on the essentials for people working in customer service, support or sales. The course is also available online. For middle managers and above, there’s Professional Business Writing, which runs every couple of months. This one is aimed at writing proposals and reports. The presenters at the AWC are experts in their field as well as great presenters, and as a bonus, the classrooms overlook Luna Park and the harbour. The next one starts on 23 June, so hop on board.

    Getting your head around project management can be bewildering. The Australian Institute of Management  runs short courses for novices (two-day course, next running in Sydney on 8-9 June) and for those with some knowledge and experience (three-day course, next running 7-9 June in Sydney and 20-22 June in Parramatta). AIM has a wide range of courses, from Leading with Emotional Intelligence (14 June) to Managing budgets (20 June).

    Webinars are often a huge disappointment, not delivering what they promise and disguising a marketing pitch as a learning opportunity. A site for solo entrepreneurs, Flying Solo, has good ones on demand, and they are helpful to everybody, not just soloists.  Accelerate your workflow is particularly helpful, showing you how to use technology to streamline work. Dealing with your inbox, automating routine office tasks and an analysis of the budget’s implications are some recent topics.

    Fancy studying at Harvard or Princeton? You can. Coursera is one of many providers of massive open online courses, or MOOCs. They are free, online and generally presented by outstanding lecturers. Try Preparing to manage human resources,   a four-week course from the University of Minnesota, which starts this week, or Big Data: data visualisation from QUT.  Coursera is also offering a practical, project-based course, How to write a resume, created by the State University of New York. When you finish you will have a polished resume developed with guidance from a professional career counsellor and recruiter, and with feedback from your peers.

    Skillshare  is a great platform for learning creative skills from others. The range of skills on offer is huge – from making French macarons to being more productive. Most include practical projects. There is a good selection of video classes in digital marketing, so helpful if you have been charged with writing your organisation’s blog posts! You are bound to find something to do for fun and relaxation too, like painting or creating a custom rubber stamp.

    Lynda.com,  part of LinkedIn, offers video tutorials you can follow at your own pace. You can learn about thousands of topics taught by industry experts and working professionals in software, creative, and business skills.

    Be sure to add all the new skills you learn to your resume. There are plenty more good sources of skills and professional development learning, and you are sure to find an online course, webinar, podcast or class to suit your needs. The important thing is to identify a need and then commit to learning.

    If you have learnt something amazing, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

     

     




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