Embrace your dormant skills and abilities

As you grow professionally you will find the need to learn new skills. Some of these skills, of course, will be technical in nature. Other skills, however, may be totally outside your technical areas of expertise.

For example:

  • You’re a programmer and are asked to write a user manual for a software product you created
  • You are a Business Analyst at a software company and are asked to make a sales presentation on software you designed to a new potential customer
  • You are a Database Administrator and are asked to speak at a Microsoft SQL Server conference
  • You are an individual contributor and are asked to become a manager

All of these scenarios force you to use skills that you have not yet polished or, at worst, use raw personal abilities you didn’t know you had. When these situations arise, they can be a little scary, but if you embrace the moment, you may:

  • Grow as a person
  • Grow as a professional
  • Find you love doing something you never before thought you would enjoy
  • Position yourself for a job promotion
  • Find you have the ability to do things you once thought were undoable

Early in my career, this happened to me. I was a new technical manager at a software company and was asked to work with the sales team to demonstrate software my group developed to potential new customers. I had no sales training and had never presented in front of clients. In short, I felt unqualified and very nervous. I found that with a little training, a little coaching, and a little practice, I did a pretty good job. In time, actually I found myself looking forward to making these presentations. Before being asked to participate in these sales calls, I would have never thought I could do this well and I certainly never thought that I would have enjoyed it.

The moral of the story is that you too, if given the opportunity to do something outside your comfort zone, may find that a previously uncomfortable endeavor may actually become a primary skill.

Another advantage of embracing new skills is that they may bring you in new and exciting professional directions you would not have previously expected. For example, you may find you like software testing better than software development. You may find technical management more interesting than being a hands-on techie. Alternatively, you may find that after giving a few presentations or managing a small team that you truly love being an individual contributing techie and want to stay that way. All of these situations have value to you as a person and as a professional. It is, of course, great to find something new and exciting to move toward professionally. It’s also, however, of great value to try something and decide it’s not really right for you. This second case teaches you a little about yourself and removes a “what if I did that” from your professional journey.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to grow.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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