Returning to work? One of the first things to do if you’re thinking of applying for a job is to invest some time in identifying what your key strengths and skills are. You’re going to need these to sell your abilities on your CV and for interviews – and it’s not just so you can handle the dreaded ‘strengths and weaknesses’ question, anyone interviewing a candidate for a job wants a clear idea of what the person in front of them is good at.
Being asked to describe what we’re really good at often takes us out of our comfort zone, especially when we’re put on the spot. We’ll often come up with two or three vague skills in a slightly embarrassing way to indicate we don’t want to be thought of as full of ourselves or over-confident. But in an interview situation, if you don’t tell people what you’re good at, how are they going to know?
I’ve written numerous CVs and it’s not hard to find at least 10 skills and strengths to include on a person’s CV. So if you’re looking at a new job, start thinking about ALL the transferable skills you have that will help you succeed. So how do you do this…?
If you’re a busy mum, you may say you’re “quite good at organising and planning things.” Well, you’d be right…except for the “quite good”. Chances are you are actually highly accomplished at this.
So, when returning to work, how about considering what you do as a busy mum but view everything from a work perspective. You probably do most of the following regularly: manage multiple calendars and appointments, organise social events, arrange pick-up and drop-off services, manage endless paperwork and communications, ensure vital supplies are replenished, and you may also book complex travel arrangements (i.e. holidays and such-like).
Now if you transfer all those experiences and actions into skills needed the workplace, these are some of the skills you’ll regularly use:
- Attention to detail
- Forward planning
- Contingency planning
Then think about what goes into successful planning? There’s usually quite a lot of plate-spinning involved – I’m not a fan of the phrase multi-tasking – but being able to manage multiple projects sounds much more impressive.
Planning also involves being able to see the bigger picture, seeing what needs doing and coordinating the different aspects to pull it all together – which is project coordination.
And an important part of any organisation and planning is considering the timescales – and if you’re good at working these out and meeting deadlines then your skill is time management.
Then if we consider that organising is not just a random thing that we do for the sake of it – there’s an outcome – and that’s ‘delivery’. So, if you have good organisational skills and are good at managing multiple tasks, my guess is you will already be accomplished at project delivery.
All of these skills fall into being good at planning and organising, plus in the home there is also financial planning and cost control involved as well.
Finally, if during all this organising and project planning, something goes wrong (after all, it happens!) you will no doubt have used your skills in problem-solving – giving you your 12th skill – and a very important one too.
Separately, as a mum you may do quite a bit of conflict resolution too! But that’s another story.
Drawing out people’s strengths is something I’m passionate about. We all have numerous skills, but we often downplay them – especially when returning to work – diminishing our own abilities and assuming that other people have similar skills to a similar level. I frequently remind my clients when they turn their two skills into 12 (or more) that not everyone can do what it is that they do well. It often takes a few reminders for them to believe this, but it’s true.
So remember… you are unique – it’s not a cliché, as not everyone has the skills to do what you do brilliantly.
Sandie Reed is a Career Development Coach who specialises in supporting and encouraging women to maximise their potential when returning to work. You can contact Sandie via her website www.sandiereedcoaching.co.uk
She also co-runs Back to Work Workshops for women looking to return to work after a career break – details can be found at www.empowering-women.co.uk. The next one is on 11th October – details below: