Getting the Skills You Need

If you have been following our Calendar for Career Success in 2012, then July is the month where you should be making some decisions.  You have done some exploring of career options, gathered information on different jobs and interviewed a variety of people to gain a better understanding of what a particular job really entails.  You have spent the first part of the year getting to know yourself and your options.  You have broadened your ideas of what careers are out there for you.  Now it is time to start narrowing those options down to the ones you are really passionate about and to make a plan for how you are going to put yourself in the best position to successfully get where you want to go.

Here are a few practical steps you can take to get yours moving in the right direction:

For each position you want to attain;

  • Make a list of skills in three areas; Required, Desired, and Helpful
  • Mark off the lists those skills you already possess
  • Make note of those that you have, but that could use improvement
  • List in a separate list those skills that you do not have. 

For each skill that you do not have

  • Search for workshops, seminars and courses that you can take to develop those skills.  The workshops can be offered through your institute, the OITE, FAES, professional societies, local colleges, etc.  For example, if you want to do tech transfer, FAES offers a full certificate program.
  • Volunteer.  Getting hands on experience is often the best way to gain the experience that you need.   Use your network map, starting with those you did informational interviews with.  Were any of the jobs in those offices particularly interesting?  Go back and ask if you can volunteer to help (note that you will have to clear any time away from your research group during working hours with your supervisor).  Also do not forget to look at professional societies as a place to volunteer. 
  • Maybe you actually have the skill already. Go back to the list above and sit down with a friend or career counselor to make sure that a skill you have now couldn’t be looked at in a different way.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice.  Whatever the skill is that you are trying to develop, the best way to do that is to practice it, in as many forums as possible.  Find opportunities through organizations inside and out of your institution.  For example, if you want to practice your public speaking, join a group like toastmasters. 

No matter where you are in your career, it’s neither too early or too late to start assessing what you need and making a plan to get it.  This is your career.  It’s time to start taking charge of it.