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How Transferable Skills Can Help Move You Forward in Your Career with Pam Hardy
Transferable skills are the root of success, and leadership mentor Pam Hardy has mastered creating and utilizing transferrable skills to advance her career and better her personal life. If you want to create opportunities, grow personally and professionally, and become a better leader, you'll enjoy this tactical episode about how to leverage your own transferable skills.
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Pam Hardy is originally from Chicago, Illinois, and came down to North Carolina to attend Shaw University. She has a Master's degree in organizational leadership from Waldorf University and enjoys mentoring women and girls in leadership. She has plans to someday write a book as well, and is passionate about educating people on transferable skills and furthering their careers.
Stephanie: Can you share some of the different roles that you’ve had? A lot of people have things they aspire to, but it usually isn’t linear. It’s like the saying that our career path is not a ladder anymore, it’s more like a jungle gym. Do you agree with that?
Pam: I absolutely agree with that. There's not just one way to get to wherever you're trying to go. For instance, with me, I started out with my current employer as a customer service representative. I’ve always been a lifelong learner so l liked working on different roles. So from there I had an opportunity to work on a rotational assignment as an administrative assistant, and then I moved into consumer affairs where I solved complex and sensitive customer issues on behalf of our senior leadership. From there, I had an opportunity to go into what they called a prototype specialist, so it had some marketing components to it where you would reach out to internal customers to find out how you could assist them with improving either a work process, a product, or maybe even finding out customer insights on how they felt about a product or service. And then from there, I had a lifelong goal of working in corporate communications, and I fulfilled that by working as a company spokesperson supporting the customer services organization, which ultimately landed me here in this current role as a district manager supporting six counties and also serving as a resource and contact to the Duke Energy Foundation, making sure that our goals align with their three pillars. So all of those things have led me to where I am and transferable skills were definitely a component of getting me there.
S: What would you say - thinking from those very early skills all the way to where you are today - is the most transferrable skill, or is there even one?
P: I think listening. Being able to listen, clearly understand what someone is asking you and share that information back, and then offer solutions on how you can assist, facilitate, or introduce them to someone that can address their need or solve their problem. I think that has really been one of those transferable skills that has served me well in my personal as well as my professional life. And I'll just tell you, transferable skills are exactly what they sound like. There are skills that you use in your everyday job or in your home life just to improve your situation. They’re soft skills like communication or relationship building. They're also portable because you don't leave any skill behind. They're stackable, you build on one scale from another. I will say that the customer service role really prepared me for every single role that I've had from there because I had to problem solve. I had to build relationships. I had to listen. I had to be empathetic. Those are all the skills, not an exhaustive list, but those are all the skills that I use in my current role. I just use them with a different audience. You're just listening to solve for different things or pair the services and products that your company has in order to address a need that they may have.
S: Yes, doing a listening check is so important because how often do we really feel listened to us. So here’s my million dollar question: How do I not get defensive when people are coming at me with those things, because I feel like one of the challenges of listening is trying to not have your own emotional response. I feel like so much of listening is you trying to really be in the moment with who you're listening to, but not getting hijacked with your own emotions and stress, and you’re great at this, so how do we get better?
P: I think what you have to do is try to remove your emotion from the situation. Remain silent and listen. Body language has a lot to do with that. That's part of listening, and being in tune with the individual(s) that you're engaging with. What I found success with is staying quiet and giving visual cues that I’m with them, and when they take a pause I’ll let them know I hear them, repeat some of the things they said, and prompt them to have a more intimate conversation about how to fix it. I always think about how would I want someone to treat me in that situation, and remember that we’re all human. It's all about the way that you respond to an individual that determines whether or not you can repair that relationship or have a conversation that will move you forward. Let them know you care.
“There’s no one and done on relationship building.”
Other skills that I think are so important is being able to present and speak - to be able to present to a meeting and effectively communicate your points - and teamwork. Your ability to work well on a team is so important in your personal and your professional life.
S: That’s so much of it, right? Just letting them know there’s another human in it with them. And I agree, I love being on teams - I’m such a team person, and I just think it’s more fun that way. You also know how much I love public speaking and what it can do for women’s careers. What’s your advice for the women who maybe aren’t leaning into that? Because I know a lot of women know I teach public speaking and don’t want to hear from me on that, but how have you really seen it transform your career?
P: I think for me, working at my current employer, we have groups called employee resource groups, and these are opportunities for employees to engage with other employees as well as senior leadership to grow their careers, to gain exposure, to increase their visibility. That’s where I started. I started to raise my hand even though I had no idea what I was doing, and I asked leaders as well as my colleagues for advice. One of the things that I really encourage people who are afraid to speak publicly is start small. Start in the middle of your kitchen or start in the bathroom in front of the mirror and just start reading, and record yourself reading, and then listen to that and record yourself on video reading again, and look at your facial expressions. Learn from that. Then start to raise your hand in meetings, to read things at church, wherever you can to practice in front of people. Ask for feedback. So just start small and keep going and build and stack those skills and opportunities and learn from each of them.
S: When you talk about stacking skills, what does that mean?
P: So an example of stacking a skill would be, let's say, if I'm going to speak at an event, I'm going to use my public speaking skills because I have to interface with people, whether it's in small groups or when I get on stage to introduce myself or introduce someone or the topic. I'm using relationship management and relationship building skills because I'm mixing and mingling and networking. I have to still interact with individuals, and so while I'm doing that, I'm using my active listening skills to find out more about the individuals and those connection points that we have. So I'm stacking all those skills in this environment in order to be successful at this particular time. We're still learning and growing, and we're able to stack those skills to walk confidently, which is another transferable skill set.
S: Okay, so I have a question for you. Once you know a lot of people it’s hard to actually meet new people because you’re always catching up with the ones that you already know. So how do you navigate that to catch up and network with people and actively listen to them, but still making sure that you work the room and meet as many new people as possible?
P: I think it depends on the setting and what you have going on in terms of the goal that you have during that particular evening. For me personally, I always look for the person in the corner not talking to anyone. That’s probably someone newer or who doesn’t have a huge network or know anyone, so I look for some eye contact to make sure they want to talk and then go for them. I always pay attention to anyone I absolutely have to chat with, and from there I just look for transition points, whether it’s refilling my drink or just saying “excuse me, I have to get with so and so but let’s reconvene this later.” So you'll know as you interact with people what those opportunities are to transition from conversations, and it's just a skill, you know.
S: I love that. As we wrap up, is there any advice - in the context of the very different world we live in today - you would give your younger self or just give to the women coming up in their careers today?
P: I think if I was going to give my younger self some advice, it would be go for it. There's room for everyone at the table, in the room, at the conference. You have something special to offer, and the world needs to see it, and hear it, and you need to share it. So I would say go for it, and do it afraid, do it scared, because that's the only way that you can get out of your comfort zone to be who you are and figure out who you are. There may be something you really want to do and it’s your thing, but if you never try it, you’ll never know. Also, find someone that will cheer you on, whether it’s friends or family or whoever. Find your board of directors for you life, and they’re those people that will cheer for you, center you, and give you good advice when you need it.
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