You want to try something new, but it’s scary. Transferable skills sound great in theory, but when it’s a major career change, it’s hard to know.
A Story of Transferable Skills
Joseph Henley was a rock star customer service consultant on my team. As we met to talk career, his passion for International relations was palpable. As I listened to his story, I knew there was only one thing to say:
“Joseph, I’m hearing your heart calling you elsewhere. I will help you broaden your experience and build your skills. But as much as I would hate to lose you, what I’d hate more is for you to not follow your dreams.”
He followed his heart, sold his belongings, and moved overseas. Yesterday, he wrote me a follow-up note. He noticed what mattered to him and found a way to leverage his transferable skills. Here’s his story.
Transferable Skills & Transformation: A Guest Post From Joseph Henley
I was eating lunch at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). My friends from Pakistan, Ethiopia, Thailand and I were discussing the protests in the streets outside the compound. The anti-government anger is seething and there is talk of a coup. The conversation tilts toward a discussion of whether the dictators throughout the world are good or evil? Though oft decried as evil, they can also bring stability to economies, order, civil services, and education.
It seems impossible that just a few months earlier I was at my desk drafting proposals for team meetings and rushing to conference calls. The world of business seems so far away from the new realities of International relations.
But was it really?
While building my career in the domestic business arena I heard many people discuss the benefit of transferable skills. Find them, nurture them and respect them. Though I have left the world of business, I now see clearly the vital importance of such inconspicuous, transferable skills.
I am grateful to have had leaders who helped me discover and build on these strengths: Notice your gifts, they’ll play well in unlikely contexts.
Soft Power/Influence – As I spend more time immersing myself in this new arena of International Relations, Diplomacy and Foreign Policy, I am reminded ever more of what the power of influence really is. Often times in a bilateral or multilateral relationship one has to tread lightly to not offend or potentially eliminate valuable global relationships, and find just the right words when there is no dotted line of direct authority.
This related so clearly to my interoffice experiences. Many times I found myself in informal arenas of influence over water cooler conversations, asides in meetings, or elevator speeches with the powers that be. This skill is uniquely relevant to my new future pursuits.
Embracing Change – Every day in business I heard about “embracing change.” We were constantly changing our approach to ensure great customer satisfaction coupled with other business results. In my studies, I’m on the move, traveling to a new location every two months. This provides a constant refresh on my professors available for assistance and advice and new libraries or school policies to learn. For example in Vienna, Austria I had full writing center staff, library assistants, computer lab assistants plus admins for each professor giving me pretty liberal access to the help when I needed it, but here in Bangkok Thailand, my campus consists of three rooms. The ‘library’ is a bookshelf, and the ‘computer lab’ is two desktops.
This pattern of change would be difficult to adjust to but I feel my time in the world of business ‘embracing change’ on a daily helps me face this with vigor.
Goals & Results – While I thought I might be leaving the roles of numbers and results behind me I soon found that more than anything this key critical element of business is needed constantly. The goals I have set upon completion of this program, but will be tangibly affected by the amount of effort I put into positive networking, experience gathering and knowledge building.
My ROI is the impact on my future.
The tour is over, and though the dictator debate is quieted for now, I know there will be many more to come. I move with my group, turning in our visitor badges, relinquishing our rights to be on International property. The world of business does not seem so far behind me in my new world of international relations and preparation for diplomacy. In fact, I smile as I note that there will be many more transferable skills to discover in the days to come.