You’ve Got Skills—They’re Multiplying!

By Margy Thomas Horton, ScholarShape

Some academics never doubt that they possess a great array of skills, never waver in their faith that the competencies they’ve honed in academia can readily transfer to new and unfamiliar domains. These academics, if they do in fact exist, should be—to paraphrase Carrie Bradshaw—put in a test tube and studied. For the rest of us, there’s Beyond the Professoriate.

In my session on Professional Development Day (May 9), I’ll share what I’ve learned about the nature of skills, and about why academics think they don’t have any. Then I’ll give you practical guidance on four steps in the process of discovering your skills and putting them to work for you.

  1. Create a robust skills inventory, a raw list of the many skills you already possess. Go beyond just asking people around you what you’re good at. Consult job postings, course descriptions, and even governments’ skills databases to get ideas and language for skills to add to your list. And don’t forget my list of 100+ Skills That Translate Out of Academia. (I’ll give access details in my presentation.)
  1. Process the information on your skills inventory into meaningful categories, using language that crosses domains. As you make sense of the items on your skills inventory, you can draw on modes of thinking that have been at the heart of your academic work: analysis, synthesis, re-framing, and translation. Each of those four techniques is a skill in itself!
  1. Create a “skill story” that can lend purpose and hope to your “alternative-“/”post-academic” journey. By now, we have all (hopefully) heard quite a few inspirational stories of academics who have revised their academic selves into joyously authentic alt/post-ac selves. I’ll share some of those stories at Beyond the Professoriate, and I’ll also offer four models for how you can write your own compelling skill story.
  1. Identify the alchemical skills that can turn you into gold—and then acquire those skills for free. As someone who spent only $97 to launch her now-thriving business, I pride myself on providing tips that are tailored to the lowest of graduate student budgets.

Allow me, as an English PhD, to encapsulate my point in metaphor form. Think of all the loose coins you have rattling around in your backpack, your car, the cushions of the couch on which you are sitting right now. How much do you think those coins are worth? If you were to gather them all together, how many milkshakes could you buy? Well, in just the same way, we all have unaccounted-for skills—intellectual loose change, if you will—lying around in the dusty corners of our lives. And I’ll bet all the coins in my couch that if you search, you can find enough skills in your life to purchase one heck of a career milkshake.

I wouldn’t be an academic if I didn’t say this process is recursive, complex, and highly individualized. Sure, there’s no one-size-fits all alt/post-ac toolkit. But lucky for you, there are common principles that build on what you already know. And if I don’t give away enough secrets in the presentation itself, you can ask me anything you want, anonymously, in the Q and A.

I look forward to meeting with you on May 9!

Join Margy Thomas Horton for “Identity Your Transferable Skills,” Saturday, 9 May, 12:15 – 1:15pm EDT during Beyond the Professoriate online conference. Register to attend.

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