I Want To Do X, But I Don’t Have The Skill Set. Where Do I Start?

If I had to pinpoint the top three things I am asked as a career coach, I’d say in that top three is this very important issue. Essentially it’s summed up as follows: You decide you want to do something different that takes additional skills outside of your current core competencies. How do you do this? I recently was one of the career coaches for my alma mater’s virtual networking hour “Ask The Coach”, where people ‘stood in line’ to meet the coaches for 10 minute chats. This was the most talked about issue in that hour.

 

So, while each career path and skill development path is different depending on the person and the career, below are some general tips that can bring you a long way in terms of that ultimate goal of developing the relevant skills to make your move:

Do Some Research: First things first- does this new skill set entail going back to school and getting an advanced degree? Can it be done through on the job training and learning? Are a few seminars enough to get you started? What internships are out there that could be a part time foray into this new life? Have I overwhelmed you with questions yet? We’ll start to answer some of them below, so don’t worry.

For me, making the leap to coaching from event production did end up necessitating going back to school to become certified. I researched various programs, talked to various people in my network and made the decision to enroll in the right program for me.

 Acknowledge the Power of LinkedIn: Ah yes, Almighty LinkedIn. It’s a powerful tool that can help you see the lay of the land in terms of who’s doing what, what companies are hiring for this area and more. I’ve recommended some of the following for my clients (and myself!)

  • Check 1st degree connections for people you already know with the relevant skill set. Connect with them and ask for a few minutes of their time to understand their career path/skill development ‘journey’
  • Check 2nd degree connections for the desired skill set and ask for e-introductions to have the same sort of conversation as outlined above with your 1st degree connections
  • Join relevant industry groups and send relevant people personal notes asking for a 15-20 minute call or email exchange. You don’t have to be 1st degree connections with someone to message them if you’re both members of the same group
  • Believe it or not, people generally are interested in helping others, especially if they love their career and want to share that passion with others interested in getting into their line of work. I get lots of messages from prospective coaches or coaches in training and I answer every single one.

Connect With People Doing What You Wanna Do: The LinkedIn connecting tips above are valuable, and continue that with live events or other opportunities. Check out your alumni association list for relevant related people and reach out to them. Whether you’re at an industry gathering or meet someone who can help you at a mac ‘n cheese eating contest in Brooklyn, follow up! Show enthusiasm for what they do and make a connection through which you can follow up later.

Ask For Support: If the new role you want to get into is also at your current company, ask if you can shadow someone doing it or be part of a project team working in that area. Chances are your manager/company wants to retain you and may be open to enabling you to develop this new skillset. You’re still working in your current job, getting new skills and getting paid for it. Pretty rad and a pretty good win-win.

Attend Events: Determine whether you want to set aside a budget to attend industry conferences or travel to events where you can hone/gain new skills. Also, don’t underestimate the power of webinars, many of which are free to learn more about your skill area. There are also reasonably priced courses all over the place. Depending on your industry, Skillshare (www.skillshare.com), General Assembly (https://generalassemb.ly) and more offer great, affordable classes and workshops to begin to take your skills to the next level. And if you’re in NYC, I recently discovered Brooklyn Brainery (http://brooklynbrainery.com) where I took a design thinking workshop last week.

Be Patient: Keep in mind above all else that this stuff takes time and you’re taking the first big step to getting there- congrats! With some diligence and tenacity on your part, you can bridge the gap from where you are to where you want to be. It just takes time, yo.

Give Back: If you’re able to provide something of value to those from whom you are asking for time and insights now, do it! If you can’t and this is just a one-way thing right now, remember that someday you’ll be in the position where someone wants to learn how you got to be doing what you want to do, so remember to try and pay it forward.

What has worked for you in the past when you were trying to break into a new skill set? What was a complete dud? Leave a story or question in the comments below!

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