Understanding Your Skills and How You Can Contribute

Happy Friday everyone! It is our final day into the wellness week and today our theme will be about understanding your skills and how you can contribute to the workplace. Any job or volunteer position can show you your strengths and weaknesses through different projects. It’s important to be self-aware of your skills in order to meaningfully contribute to your work. In our last topic, we'll hear from a few students about how they have recognized their own skills in their experience.

How do you take on the challenge of transferring your skills into a new workplace environment? How do you encourage yourself to show your strengths to your colleagues and supervisors?

“I think one of the most important things to do when entering a new workplace environment is asking questions. There will be training and learning that occurs as you enter the new environment, but this learning can be increased with questions. By asking appropriate questions about the work environment, hierarchy, the people you will be working with and points of contact, you are able to not only learn valuable information but also show your willingness and initiative to learn. As you ask these questions you can understand better what types of skills are important for the role you have. This can also help you find projects and work that are suited for you, both in your primary duties as well as other work opportunities. In any new environments I also believe in being transparent with my team and sharing what type of skills I have alongside my willingness to work with and learn more. One more thing I encourage myself to do to show my strengths is trying to leave my comfort zone. Things may seem intimidating at the beginning of any new work environment, but until I try and actively leave my comfort zone, I don’t think I could be as effective as I could. A quote I think that applies to this is ‘to try and fail, but not fail to try.’”

- Akila Patel, 3B Health Sciences

The first week of a new environment often seems pretty frightening, whether it be for a co-op term, part-time job, or volunteer position. “What will we have to do on the first day? What if I look clueless and can’t do the job properly? How am I supposed to know what things are?” These thoughts often come to mind when in the beginning stage of an opportunity. Sometimes we may feel uncertain about our capabilities as a team player but doing your best is what matters.

Has there been an instance in your work/volunteer experience where you felt your skills were limited? How did you feel before and after?

Amelia“My first co-op experience was working as a ski instructor. I have been skiing since I was 3 years old but had never taught anyone how to ski and was out of practice. The responsibility you have out on the hill is immense, not only do you have to teach properly but you must make sure everyone is being safe and will not be injured. This created an environment where I did not feel I had the skills to do my job properly, I was unsure of my teaching abilities and paranoid about my students’ safety. I did not have the technical knowledge needed to teach people of all ages and athletic abilities how to ski. It is a very technical sport where adjustments have to be made on the fly and without the experience needed to properly assess and correct my students, I felt unskilled and that I could not do my job properly. I wanted to be better, I wanted to be a great teacher and eventually I became more confident in my abilities as a skier and as a teacher. I observed my coworkers teach and took notes of how they teach, I asked for advice from my supervisors, I watched videos and read websites on different teaching techniques I could use. I felt awkward and ashamed that I had to ask for advice and help, but then I realized that I shouldn’t be, the point of coop is to learn new skills and try new things, so if you have to ask for help sometimes, that is okay, it is part of the learning process. My co-op terms following my ski position were extremely different, I was working with academic material, in an office, on long term projects, basically as different from being outside on a mountain all day as you could get. I felt I didn’t have skills there either, but the lesson I learned from my first co-op was the same, never be ashamed or scared to ask questions or seek advice, it will only improve your work and co-op experience. It is okay if you don’t have all the skills mastered on the first day as long as you keep working on them and ask for help when needed.”  

- Amelia Cammy, 3B Health Sciences

When it comes to your work and volunteer opportunities, one thing to keep in mind is that you should encourage yourself to ask for help when you need it and admit to yourself that you might not know something (which is okay!) If you relate to these experiences, it’s significant to recognize your own narrative and tell your own story when seeking opportunities and applying to other positions. Interested in chatting more about your story? The Centre for Career Action is here for you, whether you need to book an appointment, attend a drop-in, or live chat virtually. There are many resources here to support you in your endeavours. 

Have you been following along with our blog posts during the week? You can read any of the posts again here: