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You’re a lot more than just a job title.

Working in Norway

Don’t label yourself: What did you learn on the job?

Written by Karen Lee Published: Sept. 28 2020

Have you ever had a job, and if you did, what did it teach you?

Too often, job seekers tend to overlook this question.

Instead, they define themselves with a label (read: job title) to tell us who they are.

They’ll say, ‘I’m a teacher’, ‘I’m a sales manager’, ‘I’m a mechanical engineer’ and the like.

Been there, done that

So when looking for a new position, they’ll only look at job postings with titles that are the same as what they’ve had in the past. 

Are you doing this yourself? If so, you’re not doing yourself any favors by limiting the number of positions you can actually apply for – and have a hope of getting.

Instead, think back on the different jobs you’ve had throughout your life.

What did you learn at each one, and what did you accomplish?

List these learning points as skills and write each one down if it helps you remember them.

Any job will do

These points don’t have to be taken from what you’d call a career-oriented job – one (s) you got after finishing your college/university degree.

Instead, the most relevant ones might come from part-time work you had for a short period of your life. Who knows?

Here’s an example of what I mean: While studying at university I worked on the side as a waitress at several local restaurants. What did it teach me?

* conflict management, because when I got complaints from customers, I learned quickly that by listening to them quietly before asking them what I could do to help them made unpleasant confrontations fizzle before they got off the ground.

* problem solving, because at every place I worked, my managers expected that I’d take care of situations myself without running to them to solve things for me.   

* communication, because as a waitress I was constantly in the middle between the customers and cooks, and how I spoke to each when things went wrong was extremely important for keeping both sides happy and myself in a job.

(By the way, I also mention that studies have shown for years that waiting tables is one of the most stressful jobs out there. I only survived it for as long as I did by learning to keep my cool – and a smile on -- in tense situations.)

All of these soft skills are ones that I’ve brought to every job I’ve ever had since my student days.

Who’d’ve ever thought that waitressing would teach me so much?

You’re a lot more than just a job title

So if you’re looking for a new job, think back on the work you’ve done in the past.

You’ll probably remember your job titles first, which is what everyone does and is fine.

But after that, ask yourself, “What did I learn from my time there?”

Because what you answer to this particular question is what potential new employers want to learn about you.

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