Friday 27 January 2017

Working With What You've Got

Playing Long John Silver in the Geoffrey Whitworth Theatre
production of Treasure Island - December 2016
The choices we make regarding work and career are based on a variety of individual premises: finance, passion, ambition, talent to name but a few. I just wanted to consider how what we know we can do can be both a benefit and a hindrance in developing a business opportunity.

Everyone has skills. They might be numerical, physical, creative, but whatever they are, once you start to promote yourself, they can both pigeon-hole you and open doors to a whole new range of opportunities. A lot of it depends on how you see your own talents. Within the industries in which I work, actors and voice artists are very quickly recognised for specific attributes: build, hair and eye colour, vocal quality, tone and depth; all "terminally" useful from a casting perspective, but it is easy to get bogged down personally in the mud of type-casting. That's wonderful if you are regularly getting work within that particular bracket or brand, but what do you do if that's not happening and yet you are still cast to type?

"Transferable skills" is a lovely sound bite, but recognising your own as transferable can often be daunting, especially if you're not a naturally self-promoting individual. It can be even harder if your skills are very personal (voice or body type), so developing not only a coping method for rejection but also a promotion strategy for your own specific areas of expertise is half the battle.

Deciding what your skills are can also be difficult, especially if you have been entrenched in a specific industry and even a dedicated facet within that industry for any length of time - and particularly if you no longer consider them, individually, as skills. Giving a presentation is a skill. Analysing data from a variety of media is a skill. Extrapolating patterns from diverse sources is a skill. Talking out loud is a skill. Writing informative and engaging copy is a skill.
But if you do it day in day out, it may not seem like it's much to shout about. Breaking down what you do into its component parts may seem like a bit of a chore, but it will help you see just how expert you have become within your role and give you an opportunity to explore what else you might be able to apply your skills to; combine them as a set; offer them as specifics.

Allowing yourself to enjoy the abilities that you have and seeing them as skills that are applicable and in demand is sometimes tough for us all. Letting yourself explore how they might enable you to develop them in a beneficial way for others, let alone your bank balance, could reveal a surprising layer of new opportunities. Working with what you've got requires you to know what it is, understand its value and believe in what you can do with it.

I'm not attempting to reinvent anything here, but I see, all too often, colleagues and friends refusing to acknowledge what they do; perhaps because they do not want to seem pushy or arrogant, or they simply do not recognise what they do as a skill as it has become a mundane element to their every day tasks. A simple look at how you function within your role, whether as a freelancer or within a company structure and regardless of your current level of confidence in it, might well give you pause for consideration of your own skill sets and just what you might be achieve with them.

You might surprise yourself. I hope you do. I know I did.


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