Being in an office job, even if it is a temporary office job, you are in the unique position of having access to what is in effect, your very own concentrated transferrable skills workshop.
An office job is the place where you can really set your sights on learning and applying new transferrable skills, working out how to do something, when to do something, how thoroughly you need to do it, and what task or process can be streamlined.
It was once written1 that it takes 10,000 hours to really master something, it doesn’t mean something like, how to send an email or use Microsoft word but something bigger and more in depth, think of your professional transferrable skill set as a whole not as individual units, and you are thinking along the right lines.
Your professional transferrable skill set is a wide collection of smaller applied transferrable skills that when grouped together and deployed as a 'superset' become the basis for a long rewarding career and a well-deserved reputation for being exceptional at what you do. Check out this post for some excellent office career ideas.
10,000 hours may sound like an extremely long time but in reality, it roughly translates to anywhere between 7-10 years of your working life, the approximate development time of any robust career. A career is built over a span of time, you don’t get an office job and instantly call it a career, instead you have a selection of office jobs as you move around the job market trying out different work places, roles and industries building your transferrable skills and knowledge as you go. It is further down the line that you begin to call the time gone by, a career.
How to make the most of your temporary office job
Step 1 - Setting your sights high
The key to transferrable skillset success is to think of your early working life as a paid opportunity to access 10,000 hours of learning. You can then set your sights on the end result such as, the level of expertise you want to come away with, what you hope your ideal overall professional reputation will be and ultimately how desirable you want to be to future employers.
Step 2 - Selecting your skills and actions
Once you have decided where you are headed, you can now work out how to get there and begin to break down the elements you need to focus on. Ask yourself, what are the transferrable skills you want to develop and to what level of expertise do you need to learn them?
When it comes to building up your transferable skill superset, it doesn’t really matter what industry or role you want to build a career in, it doesn't have to be an office job. Transferable skills are just that, transferable to any job, any workplace and any career.
- Team working
- Brainstorming and creativity
- Time management
- Switching between tasks quickly
- Telephone manner
- Disseminating information
Step 3 - Seeking out opportunities for transferrable skill development
Once you have selected the skills you want to develop you can now start seeking out opportunities both at work and at home to learn everything you can and practice the skills as often as possible.
If, for example you have chosen 'writing' as one of the transferrable skills that you really want to develop and be great at then there is plenty you can do to make this happen. The key to being good at writing is in fact, reading. Read everything, all of the time, notice how the use of language is important in the context of what you are reading, expand your vocabulary by looking up words you don't know and making a note of new words you like.
Wider research techniques like this coupled with seeking out as many opportunities to write when you are at work will help you to build and refine the writing transferrable skill.
Another excellent way to build on your skills would be to try out different temporary jobs that lend themselves to specific skills. Take for example the listening and communication skills mentioned above; by spending some time working in a temporary role as a Customer Service Advisor you will have the opportunity to develop these two skills in a highly concentrated and applied manner, much more so than in any other position. To be an effective Customer Service Advisor you need to draw upon all of your people skills and apply active listening and empathetic but clear and concise communication skills to help your customers.
You can apply these home/work learning and application approach to any of the skills listed above.
If you come across a skill that needs that little bit of extra work you could always take the opportunity to participate in online courses, or if you find that there is an even bigger gap in your knowledge than you anticipated you could seek out an adult learning grant to enable you to return to higher education.
Step 4 - Refining your skills
Once you have started an office job you will find that you are using most of these transferrable skills from day one and in no time at all there will be elements of your work that will quickly become automatic.
No matter how daunting a task my look on your first day, give yourself a few weeks or months and you will doing it without thinking; answering the telephone, writing an email, compiling a report, and even problem solving will all become second nature.
For many people working in a temporary office job, being able to do their job without thinking means that they have reached their potential, they can move between work placements with enough working knowledge to get by in most office environments. But why settle for just enough when you could be maximising the time you have, applying it effectively with purpose, decisiveness and action.
When your actions become automatic and you are no longer putting all of your mental efforts into learning a transferrable skill, you will find that you have the clear head space to reflect and observe yourself practicing the skill.
It is in this time that you can analyse and perfect how you are doing it, you can really see the finer details in the task, your speed, your accuracy, the application of this transferrable skill to other areas of your life or work, how it can be refined, built, developed and in turn make it more interesting and useful to you.
This process of learning, observing and developing a skill will provide you with yet another a powerful new transferrable skill at your disposal that wasn't even on the list above, critical thinking.
With the ability to observe yourself with a critical eye you become aware of your short comings so they can be tweaked, bad habits can be broken and any gaps in your knowledge can be filled.
Taking on this continued critical thinking, self-analysis and refining process will enable you to enjoy a deeper perspective into what you do and how you do it building a new found excitement for all of the amazing things you can achieve with effort, observation, refinement and practice.
This is your competitive advantage, your development mindset and decisive action to maximise what you draw from each and every task you do to make each day worthy, worthwhile and purposeful is quickly communicated to new or existing employers through your CV, your communications, your actions and your overall attitude to work.
To find out more about how to take control of your own development and learning check out our post 'Life Lessons - Becoming your own Mentor'.
References1 Outliers – The Story of Success. Literature. Author: Malcom Gladwell. June 2011 https://www.amazon.com/Outliers-Story-Success-Malcolm-Gladwell/dp/0316017930