Show people you have what it takes. Image: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
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Whether you are starting out in your career or transitioning to a new project or field, you may feel like you lack the experience. You may even feel like an impostor. That didn’t stop Spanx Founder Sara Blakely, who had no experience in apparel, from starting her now billion-dollar company. “I did not have the most experience in the industry or the most money, but I cared the most,” said the businesswoman.
You have more experience than you might realize. Here are five ways to help you appreciate your experience and feel confident that you have what it takes to succeed:
1. Value your unpaid experience as equally as your paid experience.
Volunteer experience is just as valuable as paid experience. Just because you are not getting paid for your work does not mean you are not gaining experience.
On your resume, consider listing unpaid or volunteer work in a section called “Additional Leadership Experience.” In conversations, don’t focus on the (lack of) pay. When it comes to communicating your experience, focus on the value of what you learned, not on the monetary value.
2. See your education as experience.
Your education teaches you practical and theoretical knowledge. Education teaches you how to think, which is the foundation you need to build your expertise and experience.
Also, think of the classroom like work. You have someone you report to (a professor) and colleagues (students as peers). This is your opportunity to experience what it is like working with other people, which can be more difficult than the work itself.
3. Identify your transferable skills.
If you are looking to transition into a different field or industry, focus on what you have, not on what you don’t have. Focus on the skills that transfer.
To identify your transferable skills, write down your abilities and then think of them more broadly. That skill may fall under a broader skill that is an interpersonal skill, a communication skill or project management skill. Let’s say, as an intergovernmental liaison, you work at the intersection of different agencies. A broader, transferable skill would be relationship management, a skill that you could apply in business and client services.
Don’t have tunnel vision. See how your skills fit into the bigger picture.
4. Be a lifelong learner.
It is impossible to know everything, no matter how smart you are or how many years you have been in the field. Every opportunity requires learning something new. Everyone around you is continuously learning. Get in the mindset of being a lifelong learner. As Albert Einstein said, “Learning is experience. Everything else is just information.”
5. Appreciate the edge you have as an outsider.
You have a competitive advantage when you are new to something. You use a different framework to see things than those who have been in a particular area for a long time. Leverage your unique knowledge to provide a new perspective that can inspire innovation.
EY Global Chairman & CEO Mark Weinberger says, “Your degree does not define you, it enables you.” He spent years in government without studying politics. Weinberger now runs a global professional services firm, and he was trained as a lawyer and economist. Allow your set of skills and experience to make you successful.
Don’t try to change who you are and your entire education and professional experience. Use what you have to add unique value.
You have experience. Use these five points to realize your experience and match your confidence with your competence. Let people know you have what it takes.
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.
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