It was a regular Wednesday morning commute into Birmingham city centre and I was listening to Radio 4. Hugh Grant popped up representing the Hacked Off group in the latest debate about new press charters. He gave a quite brilliant performance as spokesperson, kicking into touch every line of press defence put up by the presenter.
This got me thinking about transferable skills. Now Hugh’s CV would highlight skills and experience of performing in front of a camera and microphone, remembering his lines and getting into character. So, actually, he has oodles of perfect, hands-on experience for the role of a spokesperson. Of course, Hugh has the added ingredient of being pretty passionate about the Hacked Off cause.
In a funny way, Hugh perfectly demonstrated the scope of transferable skills.
The previous week I had the great benefit, during my regular day job, of hearing first hand some amazing personal stories about people who had gone into careers into the NHS having initially thought that they hadn’t the necessary skills and experience.
I was particularly moved by a chap I shall call John for the purposes of this post. He had spent 30-years working in the car industry in Birmingham as a welder. He openly admitted that he had no other skills or qualifications and so when various people decided that Birmingham would no longer have a car industry he was effectively thrown on to a very large motor manufacturing scrap heap. A fifty year old guy with no qualifications. Who would want him?
But it turns out he was a very caring chap and some smart cookie, helping people in to NHS careers through brilliant back door routes, spotted his potential for a care role. Fast forward a couple of years and John has built a successful new career, which he loves, caring for people who need his help every day at a hospital in Birmingham. The passion with which he spoke about his new career was very inspirational. And it’s another example of the power of transferable skills.
Which brings me to you (and me, for that matter) I’ve literally lost count of the number of public sector comms folk I have spoken to this year – at all levels – looking for new roles. A tad disillusioned with their roles, their employers, and their sector.
Many of them are currently employed in local government and have jobs which are either at risk, or soon will be. Some are looking to get out of local government to chance their arm in a different sector. Some have expressed some confidence issues in being wanted by another sector, especially the private sector where they felt that their experience might not be valued or in demand.
It’s easy to slip into that mind-set, after all public sector and particularly local government staff have taken a kicking for several years. We’re workshy, clock-watchers, paper-pushers, gold-plated pension gatherers all sat on fat salaries doing nothing of any value, etc, etc (according to the Daily Mail and their ilk) If you are told enough times that you are useless, you might just begin to feel a bit useless.
Now you know that isn’t true and so do I. Most of the best communications people I have met have work in local government and the public sector. The level of plate-spinning skills needed to operate in local government are plentiful.
Something goes wrong most days in these organisations and, on a daily basis, the local newspaper will call you non-stop with further council-bashing enquiries.
And whilst you are communicating the latest cuts to them your own job is probably at risk too.
Large councils running 700-plus services - some of them great, some of them less than great - offer a huge challenge to a stretched comms team.
I tell you now, comms people working in this mix have every ounce of my respect.
And they could walk into comms roles in other sectors. Their skills are absolutely transferable. They may even find roles in other sectors a bit easier.
So, sermon over but I just wanted to say this. If you are fearful about your job security, or fancy doing something different but are worried whether you have the right skills, think back to John the welder and think about Hugh Grant. You have more in common with them than you think.
Give up on recruitment agencies who tell you that you “don’t have the right experience for my client”. Really, they know you and your skills that well? Nonsense - don’t waste any more of your time on them.
Get creative, spot the opportunities and growth sectors and get your perfectly pitched CV in front of the people employing right now. Tell your story. With confidence and pride in the brilliant things you can offer your next employer.
Darren Caveney is co-creator of comms2point0 and a creative communications consultant