Covid-19: Time to learn something new
2021-01-26 | By Jacinta Noonan
Humans are born with a natural drive to explore, learn and grow. While formal education is important, not all of our learning comes from the classroom. Make the best time during this lockdown period to pick up a new skill.
When it comes to retraining, particularly for a career move, a first assumption is often that another university degree is needed. “On the contrary”, says Colleen Reithrath-Smith, career coach and part of the ACCESS Trainers’ Network (ATN). “People feel they have to start from scratch, which is not the case. You are building forwards. People must recognise and value the skills and knowledge they have to offer; communicate their strengths effectively, get out there and network, and create their own opportunities. Then at some point serendipity happens. It isn’t luck, opportunities appear because people create them.”
From Classical Violinist to TEDx Trainer
When Jonathan Talbott started a new line of work, his intention was to enhance his career as a professional violinist, not replace it.
Jonathan asked himself, at 38, “Is this it? Have I reached the end of what I can do as a performer?” The physical and mental demands of this career, the constant travel and the financial instability were taking their toll. With a family to support, Jonathan noticed his priorities had shifted and he wondered what else a violinist could do. His first step was to complete a marketing course. To his surprise, not only did he love the course, but he realised he was good at marketing. Jonathan became the Marketing Manager for Concerto Barocco, a small orchestra specialising in accompanying choirs.
During this time, the classical music industry was going through an upheaval and Jonathan was feeling frustrated by a lack of other opportunities. At the same time, as an active volunteer at his children’s school, he was working on a fundraising project, and found the experience amazing. This got him thinking, “maybe I could do something outside the music industry.”
“I had many skills, but did not want to go back to college and do another degree,” says Jonathan. He also read the book, What Colour is your Parachute? and realised he had many transferable skills which could be applied to the business world. The same skills, different labels, you could say.
When chatting at a school meeting, a fellow parent mentioned that people need presentation skills training–Jonathan had not known such a job existed, and a lightbulb went off. With his background as a performer, he knew exactly how to help. So began his new career as a corporate trainer.
Through networking, Jonathan met the Delft TEDx licensee and went on to become a qualified TEDx coach, which increased his credibility and he found more work rolled in.
Jonathan’s career path does not tick traditional boxes. To change direction, he needed to navigate his career differently. Looking back, his network opened doors for him, but his new beginning truly started when he recognised and valued his skills and experience and understood how they could be adapted to fit other professions.
Jonathan’s advice is, “play at the edges, don’t follow the straight road. This is not where the opportunities are.” Jonathan, now aged 50, runs a successful corporate training company and is a sought-after speaker and university lecturer.
From Arts & Crafts to Coding Queen
When Anna Greaves attended an open evening at a coding institute, she had no idea her life was about to change course.
Armed with an Arts degree, Anna Greaves, at 24, was running her own portrait gallery in London. By 26, she was living in Amsterdam and job-hunting. Being creative, Anna started making handcrafted artisan mice which she gave to family and friends as gifts. These mice were so popular that Anna turned her hobby into a business. The next eight years were devoted to growing The House of Mouse, while at the same time juggling the demands of motherhood.
However, the business was extremely labour intensive which made generating a decent income very challenging. By her late 30’s, Anna was ready for a career change, one that paid well.
While volunteering at Amsterdam Mamas, Anna noticed many opportunities for women with coding skills. Intrigued, Anna decided to find out more. She completed free online coding courses and discovered she loved coding. For the next step, Anna registered for a paid course with Code Institute and, as she puts it, “this course changed the course of my life.”
Anna loves coding because it utilises both her creative and technical talents. She noticed that previous experience building her website and ecommerce shop was an asset that helped her learn coding easily.
By daring to try something new, Anna, at 40, now earns a great salary, doing something she loves. Her advice for others wanting to upskill:
- Attend open evenings and discover what’s available
- Be open to trying new things
- Know that age is not a barrier, especially in the coding world
- Recognise that previous experience is an asset
Both Anna and Jonathan discovered new opportunities as a direct result of their volunteer work. Both re-purposed their current skills and experience to suit new careers. Both enhanced their qualifications by completing short courses online. And both tapped into a strong network.
Six tips for change
Volunteer to learn new skills, polish old ones, and bolster your CV. Do not underestimate the value of the connections you will make as a volunteer. Register here if you are interested to be part of ACCESS Volunteers.
Try new things on for size. Try free online courses to gauge your interest level. Then upgrade to a paid program for certification.
Expand your network and step beyond your comfort zone. Keep your LinkedIn profile updated. Reach out to your network for help. Doing another course won’t take you further unless people know about it.
Keep your finger on the pulse, follow job market trends and keep your skills fresh so that you are well placed if an opportunity presents itself. Remember, your skills are transferable, and some jobs have not been thought of yet.
Join business clubs and attend networking events as you never know when a chance introduction will lead to an amazing opportunity.
Reach out to one of the ACCESS trainers–career or life coaches. A coach can help you clarify what it is you really want to do and guide you through the steps to make it happen.
New times call for the invention of new roles
Employers are aware that formal education credentials are not the only way to recognise talent. In fact, with accelerated changes brought by technology, the type of skills and knowledge needed for the jobs of the future cannot even be imagined today. With the move to WFH (working from home) resulting from Covid-19 lockdowns, companies now realise they need a “Remote Working Coordinator”. This role never existed before 2020. New roles mean new opportunities, especially for those who do not fit a traditional career path. With this in mind, continue to monitor trends and pinpoint how your experiences might fit emerging roles.
When it comes to a career change, Jac Rongen, life coach with archery and member of ATN, says, “people move on for two reasons. Either what you are doing is causing pain or something new is so inviting that you are compelled to switch.”
For internationals just arriving, facing redundancy, returning to work after a career break, or for those simply wanting a change, retraining can be a positive first step. However, when choosing to retrain, Jac’s advice is to, “Make sure you do something really connected to you, and not just the job market”.
Furthermore, he encourages everyone to learn skills that will support your wellbeing, such as mindfulness meditation and yoga, or even sign up for a hobby like sewing, or learn a new sport such as judo or archery. Every time you try something new, develop new skills and meet new people, opportunities will be created.