Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My diversity of experience - my greatest asset

'Experience is the product you are selling as a potential employee'
I came across that phrase in this post by Rebecca Thorman about smart workers building their careers in the same way innovators build businesses - You don’t produce marketing plans, you create connections. You don’t create paintings, you evoke emotion. You don’t deliver newspapers, you spread information.
She said it’s time to stop looking at your career as a set of skills applicable to a single position.
-         You probably won’t use the major listed on your college degree.
-         You’ll change jobs six to eight times before you are thirty.
If you can’t talk about how your waitressing job applies to architecture, how teaching kindergarten makes you great for customer service or how your blog has prepared you to be a circus manager, you lose. Instead, look at your career as a set of experiences in which there exist core ideas that can be widely applied across disciplines.

This post was surely talking to me. I used to be embarrassed at my multiple widely varying work experience: Vet doctor cum Banker cum Nonprofit program coordinator.
I felt it made me seem namby pamby. Like a Jill of all trades. Well, early this year while applying for a post graduate Masters course, I had to write a personal statement. The course I was applying for differed from my undergraduate and it wasn’t an MBA. The only link was the term medical.
I looked at my resume, and felt butterflies caterwauling in my stomach. What is positive or purposeful about all this? It was hard to convince myself that the past 6 yrs heck 12 yrs if you add 6 yrs of undergraduate education was not in vain. 
So I wrote down my responsibilities in each position and the skills I had acquired. It was interesting to discover that my strengths in each job were tied to common denominators which I varied to suit each new job then some.... 
Organisation and Attention to detail: be it in giving medication, writing financial reports, writing a budget for a grant. Dotting my I’s and crossing my T’s. I am not excellent yet. But almost there.
Excellent Interpersonal skills: This was needed to interact with overwrought pet owners, with irate account holders, to liaise with hot heads in community forums, to write winsome grant letters.
Perseverance: Perseverance/thick skins/are requisite virtues for any marketer(aka Sales person) in a Nigerian bank. Go ask. You learn that No only means no. Nothing personal. My nonprofit boss doesn’t understand that so has happily left fundraising to thick skinned me. I don’t mind. Asking for money for a good cause beats asking someone to move his money from bank A to bank B just because I have a target to meet. lol
Initiative: In my personal life I am slow at taking decisions – relationships, family etc. But when it comes to work. I don’t prevaricate. I act. Sometimes without asking questions. Sometimes bypassing immediate supervisors. It’s the Doctor in me I guess. When a patient is presented before you needing urgent medical attention. You don’t wait for all the bureaucratic form filling. Sometimes you just need to act. Then fill forms after. That’s me.
 Understanding financial matters credit and lending: I have always loved numbers infact Maths was my best subject in high school. So when I got to the bank, my love for numbers made my understanding of transactions and cash flow etc a lot easier. What I have learnt from the bank made me a better negotiator for my Org with our present bankers. It has also made me a better assessor of my Org’s financial flow.
 Proficiency in the use of Internet/Microsoft Office/Social media: I think I can add Website design to the list (after all I am the designer and author of three blogs - this and my organizations’). Yeah, what I learnt from blogging.

So, everything we do is interconnected. HR people call this transferable skill sets, theorists describe it as systems thinking, and poets recognize these ideas in the words of Walt Whitman in Leaves of Grass - 'they became part of him'.
In my essay, I concluded with the statement ‘My diversity of experience is my greatest asset….’.

I am finally beginning to believe that.

A Happy Month of September Everyone! 

p.s. I got the offer from the School – Durham University, UK! Now to get my Visa....Amen.


  1. Oh my God, Baby, I am so proud of you! I'm excited too! The UK is closer to where I am! Ginger, this is fantastically wonderful news! And yes, your have fabulous diversity in your experience!



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