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Put Your Experience to Work

There are many ways to gain the skills and experience employers are looking for. If you’re wondering whether you have what it takes to find a job in today’s workplace, check out this quiz:

  1. Which of the following involve problemsolving skills?

    a. identifying potential business risks

    b. comparing content labels in the grocery store

    c. repairing a broken lawn mower

    d. all of the above

  2. Which of the following demonstrate communication skills?

    a. resolving arguments between your kids

    b. giving a presentation

    c. representing your block at a community meeting

    d. all of the above

  3. Which of the following rely on organizational skills?

    a. taking care of fishing or camping equipment

    b. handling interruptions, such as children needing our attention

    c. keeping track of household supplies, chores and schedules

    d. all of the above

Of course, the answer for all 3 questions is d) all of the above.

If you’ve been out of the paid workforce for a while or if you’re looking for work for the first time after raising children or caring for elders, you may feel as though you don’t have many assets to offer a potential employer. Yet some of today’s most marketable skills are the kind you’ve probably acquired by living your life and learning from your experiences.

The suggestions in this article will help you recognize the value of your experience and identify work opportunities based on the strengths you already have.

Identify your experiences and what you’ve learned from them

You’ve probably learned a lot from all sorts of experiences, not just workrelated ones. Have you helped organize a community event or family reunion? Then you probably learned how to:

  • negotiate agreements
  • resolve disputes
  • co-ordinate the activities of several people
  • manage your time effectively
  • set and stick to a budget
  • promote communication and cooperation
  • deal with stress effectively

List some of the things you’ve accomplished:

  • Think of your achievements, both large and small.
  • List the skills you’ve used to get things done—at work, at home and in the community.
  • Use the Your Accomplishments and Skills exercise to get started.

Look for occupations that are a good fit for your experience

In the previous section, you listed some of the skills you’ve learned through your life experiences. These kinds of skills can often be put to use in a wide variety of work settings. As you check out the following examples, think about how your skills could lead to specific occupations or positions:

  • Are you good at organizing activities? You could put that skill to good use in occupations such as activity coordinator, dispatcher, retail supervisor, tour operator, travel consultant or volunteer coordinator.

  • Have you helped children to become better athletes? You might be interested in building on your coaching skills. They are a valuable asset for trainers, tutors, driving instructors, English as a Second Language (ESL) instructors, early childhood educators, child and youth care workers, fitness instructors, sports instructors, etc.

  • Have you worked with people who have disabilities? You probably know a lot about coping with disabilities, such as specialized teaching or treatment techniques. You could apply this experience to becoming a teaching assistant or working in a clinic that offers speech, occupational or physical therapy services.

In some cases, you may need specific training to meet the requirements of the job, but don’t assume you need a certificate, diploma or degree to qualify for work that interests you.

Talk to people employed in the occupation or field that interests you. Ask about the knowledge and skills required to do the work they do. You may find out you already have an equivalent combination of experience and education. Or you may find that there are a number of ways to obtain the education or training you need.

To find out more about the skill and training requirements of specific occupations, check out the more than 550 occupational profiles at OCCinfo.

Look for employers and organizations that are a good fit for your experience

Instead of looking for work in the form of a specific job, seek out employers and organizations that may need the skills and experience you’ve identified:

  • If you’re good at persuading people and enjoy the challenge of selling products, services or ideas, many organizations need someone like you. Retailers always need good sales staff—and so do manufacturers, wholesalers, business services and charities.

  • If you notice organizations that could use your organizational skills, give your resumé to someone in a position to hire you. Let them know what you could do to help the organization. They may not have a current job opening, but they could create one. Or they might hire you on contract or call you when a job does come open. 

  • If you’ve volunteered for a community organization, would you be interested in doing paid work for the same organization? If there is no such paid position now but you see the need for one, could you persuade the organization to create a position and hire you?

Tell employers how your experience can be a valuable asset

No matter where or how you acquired your knowledge and skills, there are employers out there who need an employee with your experience. By identifying your skills and knowledge and by looking for situations where they might be needed, you’ll increase your chances of putting your experience to work.

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