Assessing your abilities

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Assessing your abilities

Postby tomkitty » Sun Jun 07, 2009 2:01 pm

Whether you're jobhunting after a layoff, graduating from school, or planning to "go out on your own," you can focus your goals by realistically assessing your abilities. I have done this many times over the years, as I explored many "career paths." I had to tie together many various kinds of work into a succinct, comprehensible sound-bite that says "This is me, this is what I do and do well." I should add that I was a "nontraditional" student, that is, I went back to school for my Master's in English at the age of 48, when my grant-funded position at a community action agency ended. My great achievement was getting my M.A. in English and realizing that *I could read literature!* Not a very saleable skill but it has led to a level of functioning in unexpected areas that has paid off in satisfaction if not monetarily. The other achievement that year was when I founded an organization to combat housing discrimination that was rampant in the city where I lived, which led to a $400,000 federal startup grant. I was bitten by discrimination myself, got fed up, and pulled together others in the same boat, and did it. The organization is still going strong, pulling down $800,000 grants on a regular basis. Anyway...I have done so many types of work over the years, following my nose to whatever looked interesting at the time and that could still pay my bills. As I periodically assessed my abilities, I looked around at people I respected who had achieved mastery in their field, in particular writers, artists, and musicians. But this could apply to scientists, foresters, teachers--really, anyone. I noticed that all these people had been doing what they were doing for about 20-25 years. They had achieved a level of self-assurance, competency, and creativity that comes from years of experience. Then I looked at myself. Most recently (as in last week), I realized that all the jobs I had been doing and enjoying had some element of working with the public--specifically, helping people get where they wanted/needed to go and achieve their goals. Explaining, showing, interpreting, educating, presenting--all to do with communication. The most obvious was front-desk jobs, but included teaching English at community college, real estate sales, historical interpretation. I had also developed a personality to go along with this ability, where I made myself accessible, didn't talk down to people, looked for that common element that greases the wheels of communication. The trick now is to convince prospective employers that this is what I actually do and do well, and to help them think outside the box a bit. Resumes can never show this; a cover letter can explain it, but abstractly. An interview with an interviewer who actually listens would be the best opportunity to put my case over. Thanks for listening. Looking forward to feedback.
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Re: Assessing your abilities

Postby MyPasswordIsInvalid » Sun Jun 07, 2009 3:53 pm

tomkitty wrote:The trick now is to convince prospective employers that this is what I actually do and do well, and to help them think outside the box a bit. Resumes can never show this..
My point of view: do not use tricks. Employers aren't usually looking for someone to help them look outside the box (and take a chance on you.) The purpose of a resume is to get an interview, so it MUST show you can do what the employer is looking for; therefore, YOU must be the one looking outside the box. Your resume might not be your first line of defense, true. If the story you are using now doesn't work, get another one; and don't ever lie.
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Re: Assessing your abilities

Postby tomkitty » Tue Jun 09, 2009 8:11 am

Please don't leap to conclusions. Of course I wasn't talking about "tricks" literally. I wasn't talking about lying either. I was talking about helping a prospective employer see your assets more clearly. Of course they know what they're looking for, but in my opinion the HR people don't always see how your skills might be transferable to the job they're trying to fill. Also, in my opinion, this is why so many of them end up with employees who don't quite fit the bill. After all, most of the self-improvement books are busy getting us to see ourselves in new ways. After making sure your "hard skills" are in place, the "trick" (in a manner of speaking) is to "sell" your "soft skills" convincingly. After years of being in and out of the job market, I am convinced of this. We are, after all, a nation of salespersons when you get right down to it.
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Re: Assessing your abilities

Postby JeannetteLS » Tue Jun 09, 2009 11:43 am

Tomkitty, I just have read all your various posts around the forum. I've freelanced in writing, electronic layout, career counseling, tutoring, and other public relations capacities since I was 32. I am now 57. Last year I told myself I should get a "real job" -- why? I have no clue. I guess I thought that I'd feel more secure, the trap I fell into when I got out of college in 1974. I didn't fit. I still don't fit the mainstream work world. My dad gave me the first edition of What Color is Your Parachute, when he was Registrar of the University of Hartford. He said, "I know you won't listen to me yet, but I'm telling you this. Your generation will mark the last who think they will hold jobs in the same company for thirty or forty years. You, honey, will not be one of those people, though, which is fine. I never understood the allure myself, as you know. You were not cut out for nine to five, but you'll try. Just know that when you realize this is true and then enjoy it, you'll do fine. You'll be happy with change." He was right. I hate that! And sometimes I forget who I really am I guess. What is my point? I am not sure. I just wonder whether, even in the forums, you are struggling with the idea of getting that "real" job as an administrative assistant or someone in a position to advise the powers that be in an organization, or being a freelance editor/writer in the publishing world. Doing that sort of work closer to your heart. I think that age discrimination is very, very real just now. Ironically, I think we have so much to offer during a crisis time, partly because of our years of experience living THROUGH and rising ABOVE them. Yet there is still a pervading idea that after fifty we are somehow set in our ways and abilities to learn the new ways of the world. "Parachute" is something I re-read every few years. It makes me take stock in a practical way, and gives me the courage to go after jobs. I found the names of people I thought would be hiring and cc'd them when I e-mailed my information to HR. I researched the organizations pretty thoroughly before I wrote the cover letters, and I had EIGHT interviews that resulted in follow ups and very positive feedback from the people who interviewed me. None resulted in an offer. When I followed up, two had the courage to tell me the truth, that some felt I was "over-qualified" and couldn't understand why I would ever leave the freelance life. Two others simply said that the position had virtually been filled before I ever interviewed. THAT I hate... Oh, well. You hit on such cogent points in talking about HR, about résumés and what they do and do not show. (That may have been in a different thread.) I wish I know what the answers are, for people like us. (I sense you are much younger than I, so maybe I shouldn't lump us together?) I stopped trying to push myself into a slot into which I still don't fit. Yet it is hard to get freelance work. I'm fortunate that my old contacts at Stanford once again need me--a byproduct of hiring freezes in a bad economy. I am, however, thinking about your post in the W/O forum. How specifically I could suggest anything of use. Good luck.
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Re: Assessing your abilities

Postby MyPasswordIsInvalid » Tue Jun 09, 2009 5:42 pm

JeannetteLS wrote:I am, however, thinking about your post in the W/O forum. How specifically I could suggest anything of use. Good luck.
Me, too. tomkitty, I see it's Ms tomkitty. I'll try to toss in a resource or two whenever I can--if you can't use, it might be useful to someone else. The boards work well that way. If you could let us know what you are doing then I'll try not to be redundant or spin my wheels either as time is precious. I am aware that age discrimination is alive, well and rampant; I could tell you some funny stories. I am older than both of you, a little. I am enjoying a semi-"mini-retirement" at the moment but my finances have taken a big hit recently and I'm thinking of some kind of employment at end of summer. Maybe. I've learned that one of the "biggies" is "way of thinking." So, I have to work with that. If you read the posts here you will often see that the poster often does not include "way of thinking" when making the plan. I believe it is key. JeannetteLS, you "get" everything. You and your father are both very wise. JeannetteLS--not to poach tomkitty's thread--thanks for New Horizons link. New Horizons is active in my city and coincidentally, a few years ago our community tech center had a contract with them to provide computer-generated classes for MS Word and Excel. I did most of the modules but didn't take the certification tests. I checked New Horizons web site but didn't see mention of membership fees or any tuition at all! It seemed to be mainly employer oriented. Good resource though if you can get it to work for you. That "membership" sounds great!
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