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Ohio Department of Aging Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

My Community - March 2010
 

You Have a Lot to Learn... and Unlearn
Knowing What You Have to Offer Can Lead to Opportunities

After a few decades in the workforce, you might be wondering how you can acquire skills that will help you become more competitive in your current position. Or perhaps you're considering a new career. In either case, you'll need to know what your skills and abilities are, how to communicate them to others and how they can be applied in different work settings. Doing so will give you an edge in today's tough job market.

Identifying your skills isn't a guessing game, but it also doesn't require academic research.Identifying your skills isn't a guessing game, but it also doesn't require academic research. Simple self-assessments can pinpoint what you're good at doing, such as computer programming or critical thinking, and what skills you are lacking. They also can help you spot the occupations that best match your expertise and skill level and can help you identify what you need to do to be ready for a career change. A thorough assessment, like those available at RileyGuide.com looks not just at what you can do, but also what interests you and what you value most.

Ohio's employment "One-Stop System," established by the federal government more than 10 years ago to provide employment and training services to businesses and employees, can help you with your research. Every Ohio county has at least one one-stop center that provides multiple resources and services, including skills tests, career counseling, tips for job hunting, resume writing assistance, lists of job openings (local and national) and guidance to help you prepare for a new career. Services and eligibility vary by location, so contact your local one-stop center to see what is available.

In your research, you may find there are some skills you may have to "unlearn." You may have to let go of the way you've always done something and embrace new technology. For example, if you're interested in moving from a small office setting to a larger one, you may find their communications methods vary. Since your current setting may only include a few co-workers, face-to-face conversation may be the primary method for communicating. However, most larger workplaces rely on e-mail for a substantial amount of communication, so becoming more familiar with related software should be under your "skills to learn" list.

To acquire the skills you don't have but want, you have options other than going back to school. Volunteering is an excellent and affordable way to become acquainted with something new. Gone are the days when volunteering consisted of sealing envelopes and other relatively menial tasks. For example, if you're interested in a career in long-term care but lack related experience, the volunteer ombudsman program could help you build valuable skills.

Regardless of the job you have now or want tomorrow, the following are skills most sought after by employers:

  1. Being articulate - Whether you are speaking face-to-face, via e-mail or in a formal report, be clear in the message you convey.
  2. Knowing your way around a keyboard - A basic understanding of a computer, such as being familiar with word processing, e-mail and spreadsheets, is essential.
  3. Thinking critically - The ability to evaluate a situation and identify key issues and solutions is a ticket for success in any career.
  4. Juggling - Like most of us do in our personal lives, at work you need to be able to handle multiple tasks and deadlines. For an interview, be prepared to describe how you multitask - anyone can say they are capable of doing so.
  5. Being a team player - There are very few jobs that don't require interaction with co-workers. Employers want someone who can work well with others to reach common goals. Knowing how to mitigate conflict with others - unfortunately a given in many office environments - could make you stand out.

In the workplace, baby boomers have the advantage of years of experience. Even if you're not considering a career move, you can still benefit from a skills self-assessment. You may learn that you have more expertise than you had realized. Such knowledge could allow you to take on additional responsibilities in your current position and maybe put you next in line for a promotion.