Taking stock of skills and values can be immensely helpful, especially if you’re looking to change careers. But if you’ve held the same role for some years now, you may find yourself struggling with role trap. And be seriously short-changed in the process.
Role trap can go unnoticed at first. Perhaps it starts with a reference to your role as shorthand for your skill set, and over time you confound the two. You think, “I’m a five-year lawyer” or “I trained as a journalist” or “I’ve always been an Executive Assistant”. A career change suddenly seems so much more intimidating. The fear of being stuck grows as your perception of what’s possible bottoms out. You feel confined to doing only what you are already on track or trained for. In short, more of the same.
You are much more than your role, however. And here’s how you can prove it to yourself and others (and bust right out of that role trap).
What skills and experiences are needed to do what you do? Think about all the different components and tasks of your role. Be specific AND comprehensive. For example, let’s say you draft briefs as a lawyer. Among other things, drafting requires research skills, critical analysis, and the ability to synthesise and summarise a lot of information. These are highly transferrable skills! (That is, they can be applied to lots of roles.) Sometimes we don’t have the language to describe our skills and we say things like “I just do stuff”. If this is the case for you, look up your role on LinkedIn or Job Ads and see how others describe the skills that you are likely using.
Consider any previous roles and work experience. Reflect on your whole career to date. What personal, interpersonal, business, or technical skills have you used over the years? Consider your experiences outside of paid work, too. What have you done, and what skills and talents have you used at home, in your studies, travels, or in other personal and social arenas? If you need some inspiration, check out Bolles’ list of 246 skills.
What skills do you really enjoy using? What are you most praised or prized for? Do you find yourself repeatedly (or enthusiastically) raising your hand to do certain things at home or work? For example, maybe you’re the go-to for holiday planning – that usually means good research, organisation and decision-making skills (not to mention influencing and negotiation skills, if planning with others!) If you’re really struggling to pinpoint what you’re good at, ask supportive friends, family and colleagues for their views.
Logically, there are bound to be numerous roles that your skills and experience can be applied to! Next step – research the new roles you’re after. Identify any skills gaps, and don’t forget to consider how you might enhance before you advance.