Do you know how to leverage your skills?

career change

We are moving into the era of entrepreneurship and consulting. To recognize your transferable skills and determine how you can apply them to another area is hence crucial. Listen to Jody Greenstone Miller, Founder and CEO of Business Talent Group explain to Stanford how to make a career pivot

Technology and robots are taking over more and more jobs.  Even for qualified executives employment is becoming a thing of the past. Enter entrepreneurs and consultants. Freelancers are increasing and online companies offering services are transforming the  job market. You can practically order any service you need on the internet. Even a taxi through Uber. We are moving from full time to temporary employment. In the United States 53 million people i.e. 40 percent of the work force, are already freelancing. And the phenomena is rapidly spreading all over the world.

Revolution in the labour market

It started with the financial crisis in 2008 when an abundance of people lost their full time employment and becoming self employed suddenly became a necessary and attractive way to support yourself. The good news is that the internet and social media has vastly facilitated that way of working. An on-demand-economy is emerging. Traditional company structures are being transformed and more and more work is being ordered on demand.

Fiverr is a great example of the on-demand-economy
Fiverr is a great example of the on-demand-economy

How do you fit into the on-demand-economy?

First thing is to determine what skills you have and where and how they can be applied. So, how can you determine what your strengths are and what you can do with them? It works the same way as evaluating what other types of jobs you could do in the company your work for or another business.

If you are an executive you, most likely, have an abundance of functional skills that are in high demand and your knowledge of different industries can also be a highly valued commodity. A great example is government where ministers are moving from one portfolio to another. When it comes to recognizing a core set of skills  and how they can be applied to different areas governments have actually been much better than the private sector.

In other words,  the trick is to determine what your strengths are, separate them and understand what they make you capable of doing. Then you apply them to what you are looking into doing. What are your functional skills? HR, legal issues, communications, marketing, finance, sales or other areas?

Building up a start-up an asset

Strange as it may sound, having built up a start up from say one to 30 employees is a skill that’s useful and can be applied to assist other start-ups and already established companies in developing and growing in a lean and profitable way.

When looking at your strengths don’t forget that skills don’t go away if you don’t use them for a while. It’s like starting rollerblading 25 years after you were ice skating.  So don’t disregard old skills because you have not used them for a while. Core skills you can just leverage and start using in a new direction.

Do you agree that we are moving to an on-demand-economy? Is entrepreneurship, consulting and freelancing taking over from full time employment? Are you already working as a consultant or freelancing? Have you thought about what your skills are and how they can be applied to other areas? If so, have you found any new areas of interest?

Video: Stanford Graduate School of Business Picture: Got Credit

48 thoughts on “Do you know how to leverage your skills?

  1. Freelancing is something that I have always wanted to do. Being your own boss is a very attractive thing. However, it was only once I lost my job that it became a bit more of a serious idea. It is so difficult to break into though but I think once I do (hopefully!), it will be worth it.

    1. Getting clients is not an easy thing. You will be declined several times before you get an assignment. Frustrating. But that's the way life will be for the majority of people in the future.

  2. Freelancing seems to be the future, but what kind of employment would that be for an entire population. With robotics, I am wondering if ownership of them is the future? Imagine, you own your own robot, and it is your automated machine which is hired, not you. You come along to program or troubleshoot it, but it is the skills of your robot that is hired. I know this might seem far fetched, but if indeed we keep moving to automation, then any skills you obtain (other than maintaining a robot) would become useless.

  3. Functional skills are indeed transferrable, but you must be able to convince an employer that the skills you learned in a different industry translate to his company. That is not so easy to do as many companies are so inflexible in their requirements. And search firms don't have the courage to propose a candidate who doesn't fit the company's mold.

    1. Absolutely, Jeannette. But you can also leverage your skills to start a new company. Besides it looks like we are moving into an era where consulting is the name of the game.

  4. Freelancing is definitely the way forward. The job market is not as stable as say 30 years ago so people are generally finding multiple streams of income. Years ago you gained employment and worked your way up in that organisation. It was a job for life!

    I know many who work as consultants/on fixed term contracts. They are confident in their area of expertise.

    It is beneficial to revive those skills which have not been used in a while as the job market is so competitive. Employers have their pick of the best.

  5. Hi Catarina. I have indeed been working as a freelance writer, author, and communications consultant since 1993 and really enjoy the diversity of jobs that my skill set has brought me. In today's quickly changing marketplace and workplace, we need to be flexible, embrace trends, and keep adding to the services we offer in order to stay on top of mind in present and potential clients.

  6. I have worked in many different fields entirely over my long career. And it’s true skills don’t go away just because you havent used them in a while.. Even in a long while. And secondly, it’s amazing the skills that can transfer from one profession to another. For instance learning how to deal with my first grade class when I was a teacher transferred quite nicely into the corporate environment and dealing with a sales team who never wanted to follow the rules, thought they should always be the center of attention or the best… You get my drift. 🙂

  7. You make some wonderful points. Especially to evaluate what other skills you have then the ones you demonstrate at your current position. I think self-examination is important first step in this process. You can highlight you talents, and also begin to retrain or educate yourself in the areas you are lacking in.
    Being multi-talented is vital in this new economy. As jobs shift, you need to shift with them.

  8. I agree that core skills are transferable, but if you're looking for a new job in an industry where you've never worked it's very difficult to convince the hiring manager that your skills will translate to his company. The company will always favor someone with the skills and the experience in the industry, especially when there are so many more people who have been downsized out of a job.They can pick and choose. We are moving to part-time economy, but I think that most people would still prefer to work full time for a company. They're working part-time out of necessity, not choice.
    My recent post What the Heck are Native Advertising and Branded Content?

    1. Correct that most hiring managers want to hire someone with expertise from their industy, Jeannette. But don't you think it would be a good idea for people to start looking at what they can do as self employed? Full time jobs are becoming a thing of the past. So why do they wait until they are made redundant to plan for how they fit into the on-demand-economy? At least if they keep that in mind they know what to do when, say, technology takes over their job. Or the company they work for decide to move to India.

  9. I left my teaching job by choice, but found myself a freelancer almost by accident. Now that I’ve been doing it for awhile, it’s hard to imagine working for someone else again, but it’s also scary because there are no employer benefits to be taken advantage of. I focused on editing, but am branching out into a few writing gigs, and a good number of people have asked for social media consultations. And by default, I now seem to be able to utilize my skills to format e-books for others as well.

      1. My reply does cover a few of the areas I've been utilizing my skills. On a semi-related note, I've seen a good number of former teachers become successful sales people, especially for cars. Any good presentation or spiel is very muck akin to a great lesson plan in the way the person goes about leading the audience (or buyer) through it. 

        1. Absolutely, Jeri. Was just interested in if you had leveraged your skills and found different areas where you could use them. Agree with what you say about a good presentation and how it can be used for many different purposes.

  10. I love what Jody said about how people in the entertainment field could transfer thieir skills to technology companies. We in entertainment often feel we have nowhere to else to go and find employment. I never thought that comapnies would market to entertainment companies.

    1. Can't help smiling, Pamela because your online brand is focusing on psychology:-) Anyway, hope your background in entertainment enables you to benefit from what Jody said.

  11. You make a good point, Catarina, that skills don’t go away just because you haven’t used them in a while. I’ve been surprised at how many old skills I still use in a completely different career! And working for yourself, you have the ability to use the skills you enjoy, not just try to fit into an employer’s box of requirements.

  12. Great post and good reminder to look at skills objectively. Intuitively, I think we know that core skills are transferable, but in a changing work landscape its easy to be overwhelmed. Sometimes people spend so much energy focussed on holding onto what they had, that they don’t consider what they could have if they looked at their skills objectively.

  13. I feel really torn about this shift in the workforce, not in terms of leveraging my own skills, but rather how it effects peoples lives. Having been self-employed for much of my work life, Im excited that so many more people get too have more choice and flexibility around their work situation. But that also comes at a price e.g. no health benefits, no regular paycheque etc. etc. Some people are suited for that kind of life, but it's not for everyone. I wonder whether its an economic change that has been forced upon the business world at the benefit of larger corporations, and that the benefits dont nec. trickle down. Good post Catarina. Thanks
    My recent post Do You Keep A #Writer’s Notebook?

    1. Agree with you completely, AK. For the majority of people in this world this is negative, to put it mildly. But considering that it’s happening we all need to levarage our skills and see what we can do with them. Am glad I’m not young now because employment is becoming a thing of the past. When we graduated from university it was easy to get a good job. A lot of young people today have to start their own company regardless if they have an entrepreneurial mind or not. And then let’s not forget the vast majority of people in this world that are unskilled. They are in for a rough ride.

  14. There's no question that the world of work is changing, and the pace of this change accelerating. The 'Post-War Cohort" (born 1928-45) and many of the first decade of the "Baby Boomers" (1946-54) had an expectation of jobs for life. This started changing in the 80s and 90s with technology developments, and accelerated rapidly with the economic downturn from 2007/8. Increasingly, individuals will be employed on an as-needed basis and will need to take responsibility for their own skills development and marketing to make the best of their prospects.

    In my case, I've been doing consultant and interim work for 7 or 8 years now and this definitely seems the way of the future – I use my experience and skills in a range of executive and non-executive roles…

  15. > Do you agree that we are moving to an on-demand-economy?

    Kind of. I think the percentage of that in the economy will increase. It has always been there, it is just growing now.

    > Is entrepreneurship, consulting and freelancing taking over from full time employment?

    Kind of, it is increasing. I don’t think it will constitute more hours than full time employment (for the next 20 years – in the very long term it is hard to predict). One thing that had been a nearly catastrophic macro-economic problem (and an actually catastrophic problem for many people) with this in the USA is how closely health insurance was tied to employment. The minor reforms to the USA health care system (it is only a tiny bit of what is needed – USA has, and still, costs twice as much for health care as other rich countries with no better results, hundreds of thousands of bankruptcies…) make significant strides in 1 area: making health care a bit less directly tied to your employer (largely by getting rid of pre-existing condition barriers). The USA system is still far too tied to your employer but it isn’t as catastrophically bad as it was before the minor reforms.

    > Are you already working as a consultant or freelancing?

    > Have you thought about what your skills are and how they can be applied to other areas? If so,
    > have you found any new areas of interest?

    Not really, I do what interests me and take a bit of effort to focus on making some money. Though I could focus a bunch more on making money. Much of what I spend my time on doesn’t make much but as long as the balance of what I want to do and having money to do it are pretty well in line I am ok.

    1. Thank you for stopping by and giving us your thoughts, John. In particular it's interesting that you have the opinion that the job market isn't changing that much. Nice to have that point of view expressed as well.

  16. I have always helped small business owners keep their businesses working efficiently as a office manager. So, when I started my own organizing business, I incorporated those admin services skills like payroll, invoicing, social media marketing, and bookkeeping into my business. It is now my main source of income. Hopefully it continues. I love assisting self employed who have no help and have the flexibility to take care of the kids as well. It is more rewarding for me this way. I think the on-demand employment is exactly what I am doing with these clients. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  17. I have many transferable skills gained in the public and private sector.

    Up until a few years ago, I was happy to climb my way up the ladder onto senior management level. Now, I would like to start and successfully run my own business.

    1. Glad you have many transferable skills. For what kind of a busines do you have the skills and experience needed to succeed in? Once you have figured that out and make a business plan you will be able to evaluate if it's feasible.

  18. Great post Catarina. In general I think people don't know how to leverage their skills and instead think too narrowly about where they would apply. In some circle in the USA, when the Affordable Care Act was implemented many entrepreneurs began to see opportunities in different ways that in the past. In general knowing that people were going to be laid off, they tweaked the role, added and subtracted tasks and then gave those redundant employees a chance to come in as independent consultants. It does seem to support the on-demand theory.

    1. Good points, Patricia. Agree that most people overlook leveraging their skills. Most likely because it doesn't even occur to them because they focus on whatever they do at the moment or last did.

  19. Absolutely. You can definitely transfer your skills to another position and even another industry. It used to be that you went to college and got a job that was just what you were trained for. No more! We tend to move from our first jobs into a variety of other ones. It is not hard to move from employed to becoming an entrepreneur using the skills you acquired. My degree is in music. I taught a few years but then I started a flight school and ran it for 20 years. Then started and ran a website design business. Now I am a business coach. All my early skills helped shape my other positions.

    1. So true, Beth. And that's the way people will work in the future. Mind you for a lot of people it will be hard because they don't have the skills necessary to do more than simple work. And for them the pay will be much lower than it used to be. Mind you in the US most those people have not had a raise for decades.

  20. I find this an interesting time in which to live. With the Internet, the possibilities for entrepreneurship are unlimited. Whether this is through providing a service or a product. The one thing that will be more difficult in the future is getting a market share. With all the competition out there you will need really need to be a savvy marketer, using social media to its full potential.

    1. Good points, Lenie. Don't forget how technology is changing the real world. Pensioners now have started to use robots in their home to not be too dependent on the people taking care of them. And it will not take long before our cars drive themselves. The biggest hurdle when it comes to getting a market share is that you already have an abundance of people in devoloping countries doing the job on demand that are under cutting prices tremendously. Have a look at – what we want 200 dollars for they do for 15.

  21. Completely agree that we are moving towards an on-demand society. In the U.S., a contributing factor is a high cost of providing health care to employees, which many companies cannot afford and remain profitable. To outsource services is a practical way to avoid paying those costs or being fined for not providing them. This can be a great thing for people who are self-motivated and a disaster for those who are not. From a company standpoint, it could prove riskier. That said, it has created a whole new world iof opportunity for freelancers.

    1. Yes, the on-demand-economy is taking over, Jacqueline. Full time employment is becoming a thing of the past. It's actually the United States that has led this development in order to maximize profit and cut costs. Already in the 80's Americans paying say, Arthur Andersen, to do their accounting were unaware it was being done in India. It's all a result of globalisation. For us who are entrepreneurs it's positive. But for the majority of people it will be problematic, to put it mildly.

  22. I think we sometimes look at our skills with too narrow a view – in terms of the particular industry we’ve worked in or specific role we’ve performed. Looking for the core underlying skill is a good thing to do. You’re right – the skills are often transferable to other types of jobs (freelancing or permanent employment) and opportunities we may find extremely satisfying.

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