Career and Skills Flexibility

 

Introduction to the soft skill

The module refers to an individual’s flexibility in a career path and the ability to adapt their own competencies into new occupational realities, professions, jobs and careers, hence increasing one’s empowerment over one’s own career. This includes the mental agility and openness to see one’s own competencies from a new perspective, reflecting what soft skills one has developed in different settings, and a person’s ability to select and apply specific skills and competencies in different professions and when searching for a job in order to create career flexibility.

Why is this an important skill?

New professions are created, and existing professions disappear or change all the time. If someone is not prepared, changing of professions might leave one unemployed. Often, in such situations, people focus on hard skills while forgetting the soft skills. Soft skills are important as they help to deliver the work, and they are needed when rethinking one’s career. One can look at the set of one’s own soft skills and think which can be the most useful for a certain job.

Soft skills are developed in different situations of life and become assets in work life and contribute to one’s career flexibility. An example of such flexibility is how some fashion designers have become service designers. Similarly, an elite athlete brings the soft skills developed during the sports career into a new profession, showing attributes such as persistency and the ability to get on one’s feet after a defeat.

 

Open Education Resources + Icebreakers

Have a look at some of the following materials before completing the exercises. Reflect on how and when these skills have been applied by you or someone else.

Estimated time:

10 – 20 minutes

 

Exercises to help you develop this skill

 

Exercise 1: Skills Analogies

Overview:

In this exercise, learners will observe career changes and what kind of skills they have transferred to the new profession.

Estimated time to complete: 10 – 20 minutes

Materials needed:

    • Pen

    • Paper (minimum A3)

    • Pens

    • Tape

    • Whiteboards

Difficulty: Hard

The activity:

  1. Choose 3 people with a higher educational background who have changed their careers:
  • a) One who has simply drifted to another sector soon after graduation.
  • b) One who has changed career later without having additional training.
  • c) One who has changed their career but who has also had additional formal or informal training for it.

Use the downloadable template and make one for each of the three persons. List for each soft skills needed for each job position. Look at the example of one of the persons below.

Example exercise 1
Name: Jennie Doe

Education in (discipline): Fashion design

Choose of the three options (and delete the others):

a) One who has changed career later without having additional training

Employment/

job/position

1. Fashion designer 2. Company developer 3. Publicist
Soft skills – Quick problem-solving

– Adaptability to change

– Resilience

– Creativity

– Interpersonal skills

– Ability to see the core and to solve blurry problems

– Quick problem-solving

– Adaptability to change

– Resilience

– Creativity

– Interpersonal skills

– Ability to see the core and to solve blurry problems

– Quick problem-solving

– Adaptability to change

– Resilience

– Creativity

– Interpersonal skills

– Ability to see the core and to solve blurry problems

Hard skills – Design and visuality, style

– Image, brand

– Profitability

– Social Media skills

– Business idea

– Profitability

– Branding

– Social Media skills

– Image and brand

– Profitability

– Social Media skills

  1. Once finished, compare the three tables and see which soft skills follow from one profession/job to another. Highlight these in a colour you prefer.
  2. Next, do the same to hard skills; look which ones follow from one profession/job position to another and mark these with a colour you choose.
  3. Reflect on the similarities. Choose 2 soft skills and 1 hard skill. How could you express them in a job application from one sector to another of the person in question?

 

Exercise 2: Skills SCAMPER

Overview

This exercise will develop individual’s thinking towards career flexibility by thinking about their own skills and how to adapt them in different professions and positions.

Estimated time to complete: 25 – 50 minutes

Materials needed:

    • Pen

    • Paper (minimum A3)

    • Pens

    • Tape

    • Whiteboards

Difficulty: Hard

The activity:

  1. List different soft skills you have. Do not only focus on the most obvious ones, but think about your experiences, hobbies and other activities too which can provide you with a set of soft skills. You can use brainstorming with post it notes or a piece of paper (writing the skills on them and later grouping them) or for instance a mind-map (e.g. ‘Me’ at the centre of a paper, hobbies, jobs and other experiences around it, and skills around each experience/hobby/job).
  2. Next select two job positions which are different from yours. For each of them, highlight the soft skills you need to perform the job. Write a job position at the centre of a sheet of paper (preferably bigger than A3) or on a whiteboard. Use a different sheet for both job positions.
  3. Next use the SCAMPER technique to think about the soft skills you would need in both job positions. Use the list of your soft skills you created at phase one, you can add more if you want to. SCAMPER is a creativity technique that allows you to change different parts of objects, things, processes and services by using a set of defined methods (see below). Look at the SCAMPER list of elements to change below and apply them to the soft skills for the two job positions you selected.

The list of SCAMPER elements to use:

    • S = substitute: what would you substitute?
    • C = combine: what would you combine (add) into this?
    • A = adapt: what would you adapt (adjust) this?
    • M = modify/magnify: what would you modify or magnify in this?
    • P = put to another use: where else it/what other contexts would you use it?
    • E = eliminate: what would you eliminate?
    • R = rearrange/reverse: what would you rearrange or reverse?
  1. Analyse the soft skills in relation to SCAMPER for both job positions. Draw an image of the job (the job at the centre of the sheet of paper) and the selected skills around it. Do this for both jobs. Finally, add your hard skills to both job positions boards.
  2. Observe the two jobs. Do the two boards give you new ideas about possible job options or careers? Are you able to discover something new about yourself? Has this exercise inspired you to learn new skills? What else can you discover about yourself and your situation (this can be both positive and negative; the negative often opens our eyes to new possibilities?

 

Next steps and evidence-based story

Having completed these exercises, can you think of any evidence you have that demonstrates your soft skills and how they have manifested in different settings? What would someone who knows you well say about your soft skills?

Now think about situations when you have demonstrated the adaptation of career and skills flexibility. Remember that soft skills are not just learnt in the workplace! Draw from all your life experiences (both in and outside the workplace).

Look at the examples below for some guidance.

  • I’ve lived in different countries and got to know many people from different backgrounds and cultures. This has taught me plenty of interpersonal soft skills and also manners. In addition, it helps me with project work as I’ve learnt how different people have different ways to reach and different paces to do things.
  • A relatively young project manager once heard that she did not have enough experience. She answered that she had worked as a fashion designer. The seniors at that point said: ‘Ok, then you should be able to do it!’. This refers to how demanding and fast-paced the previous job had been, demanding different soft skills, including planning, project-based thinking, risk-taking, decision-making.

Look at the examples and think about the following questions:

  1. What have you learned about your soft skills?
  2. What have you learned about yourself when looking at your soft skills and their application?
  3. How could you adapt your soft skills in work life?
  4. What kinds of new avenues could they open?
  5. After reflecting on the questions above, do you think more confident about your soft skills and their usefulness in work life? Has this increased understanding of your soft skills and their adaptation in work life?

Write an example of when you have demonstrated soft skills and it will be added to your portfolio and Curriculum Vitae?