When I signed up for Navigating the Workplace, a workshop offered by the Career Centre, I didn’t know what to expect. This was the first Career Centre event I had ever attended, and the event description only vaguely spoke about building goals, understanding workplace expectations, and learning effective communication skills. However, at the end of the event, I gained insight into how to effectively communicate my qualities, and about the different ways to approach career exploration.
Our first activity at Navigating the Workplace was to discuss a past job or experience that we were particularly proud of with a partner, who would listen and identify our strengths, interests, values, and other characteristics for us. We then had to recognise and apply these qualities to our current jobs, and consider how our jobs reflected our values, strengths, and interests. It was interesting to hear the responses from others: some felt that their jobs perfectly represented their values and skills, while others—although they enjoyed their jobs—disliked certain aspects of their jobs. Some participants chose their jobs based on their passions, while others preferred to keep their passions separate from their work. Since this was my first career-centred event, I had never sat down and discussed career exploration with a group before, so it was eye-opening to see the different ways others approached their careers. I have always chosen my jobs based on my passions, but the workshop introduced me to new job possibilities that I had never thought about before.
Our facilitator then referenced a survey from Michigan State’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute that revealed that “‘although liberal arts students were equipped with needed workplace competencies,’ they were unable to articulate the skills they developed which negatively affected their job search and interview process.”
This research, naturally, made me think back to all of my past resumes and cover letters and cringe. Was simply putting down “communication skills” accurate enough, or was it only describing an iota of my true competency?
Our facilitator then asked us to envision and draw our front doors, which most of us had difficultly doing. Personally, my front door looked like an abstract drawing of a cupboard gone horribly wrong. Our facilitator likened our knowledge of our skills to our knowledge of our front doors; although they are things we witness every day, we do not think about them enough in order to properly and explicitly communicate them. So, in other words, I might have to revisit that “communication skills” line in the future in order to make it less vague.
With this in mind, the rest of the workshop was centred around knowing our skills well enough to properly communicate them by completing a Personal Learning Plan. The first part of the Plan asked us to identify a skill we have, and an example of when we demonstrated it. The next part of the Plan, to be completed later, asked to consider how we will further develop this skill in our currents jobs, and how we will know when we’ve developed it. The Personal Leaning Plan will not only help me gain more out of my current job by helping me realize the skills I’m using and how I can build upon them, but also by helping me communicate these skills to future employers by thinking deeply about them and applying them to real scenarios.
If you’re interested in learning more about your real skills and how to effectively communicate them, you can attend the next Navigating the Workplace on October 25. You will not only get the chance to learn about yourself, but learn about the ways others approach their own career explorations.