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Can your skills lead to a new fulfilling career?

Do you feel like you’re working a job instead of building a career? Is your current work paying the bills but leaving you unfulfilled? You’re not alone. If you’re ready to make a big change professionally, you may be wondering where you should start. While the specifics will be different for everyone, you can follow three general steps to set off on your journey to a new, fulfilling career.

How to find a rewarding career

Step 1: Categorize and describe your skills

In every role, you build valuable skills. Whether you’re a bartender, working a department store cosmetics counter, or stocking shelves at a big-box retailer, you have experience that can be useful in a new career. It’s all about categorizing and describing it correctly.

For example, consider Sam, a bartender at a local chain sports bar. Sam initially enjoyed their job, but now they’re ready for a position that will help them save up to buy a home and gain career stability in their life. As they first consider their skills and responsibilities, they might discuss them in this way:

Prep supplies for bar opening

Count opening register

Check bottle stock and update inventory

Review specialty drinks update for shift

Take customer orders and provide requested food and beverages

Prepare waitstaff drink orders for table customers

Process customer payments

Clear customer dishes and glasses

Clean bar area after last call

Check bottle stock and update inventory

Restock bar supplies as needed

Close out register

Complete closing paperwork/credit machine close-out

While this list is correct, it doesn’t demonstrate the skills and knowledge Sam relies on to perform each task successfully.

So, let’s reconsider the list above and think about it in terms of how these skills translate to a broader application across different industries and roles.

Maintains optimal sales and supply inventory

- Preps supplies for bar opening

- Checks opening bottle stock and update inventory

- Checks closing bottle stock and update inventory

- Restocks bar supplies as needed

Provides a hospitable environment and positive customer experience to optimize sales

- Takes customer orders and provides requested food and beverages

- Prepares waitstaff drink orders for table customers

- Clears customer dishes and glasses

- Cleans bar area after last call

Manages financial transactions, reporting, and asset security

- Counts opening register

- Processes customer payments

- Closes out register

- Completes closing paperwork/credit machine close-out

Ensures legal and policy compliance

- Checks IDs to ensure patrons are 21 or older

- Monitors patron consumption and discontinues service as needed

- Maintains last call policies and procedures

Achieves sales goals and associated KPIs

- Reviews specialty drinks update and shift sales goals

These changes aren’t just semantic. They help to position Sam’s skills under broader categories that can be applied beyond their current role. Sam can now move on to assessing their soft skills, which are character traits or interpersonal abilities that can improve their productivity and success.

Looking at the initial skills list from the beginning of this exercise, some of Sam’s soft skills include:

Effective time management and organizational skills

 - Manages competing priorities and tasks effectively (e.g., managing bar orders and table orders simultaneously)

Curiosity and lifelong learning 

Studies new cocktail-culture trends and learns about new ingredients and techniques

Exceptional communication skills

- Engages customers in conversation, providing a positive hospitality experience while taking multiple, complex drink orders

Creativity and innovation

Creates new and custom cocktails with unique or client-favorited ingredients

Adapts to supply-chain issues by modifying common drinks to existing stock

Strong conflict resolution and interpersonal skills

- De-escalates customer disputes, manages the safety of customers who need assistance

As you consider your own experience and the skills you’ve developed over the course of your education and career, you’ll start to see that you have abilities that can be useful in a number of different roles. Once you’ve identified your hard and soft skills, it’s time to consider those job opportunities.

Step 2: Assess new job opportunities

Now that you’ve analyzed your skill set, you can start exploring new ways to apply it. The best way to begin is by taking a brainstorming approach, throwing out any ideas you might have and evaluating them later.

Using Sam’s example, some possibilities associated with their skills include:

Brewery, wine, or liquor sales representative: This is primarily a sales position that involves networking and socializing with clients; calling on a variety of retail and food service businesses; and ensuring business management awareness of the latest brand discounts, products, and promotions. Work schedules can vary, and travel may be required.

  • Key skills include:

    • Familiarity with the product and its usage

    • Customer engagement and sales optimization

    • The ability to achieve sales goals and KPIs

    • Understanding legal and regulatory product requirements

    • Exceptional communication skills

    • Conflict resolution and other and interpersonal skills

    • Creativity and innovation

Corporate receptionist: This position can be hourly or salaried, and involves greeting visitors, notifying appointment contacts, receiving packages, and maintaining an inviting reception area for visitors. Work schedules are usually weekdays-only, with weekends and major holidays off.

  • Key skills include:

    • Exceptional communication skills

    • Effective time management and organization 

    • Strong conflict resolution and interpersonal skills

Governmental/city/municipal clerk: This position can be hourly or salaried, and involves greeting visitors, helping visitors complete paperwork, describing process guidelines, and troubleshooting application processing (e.g., city clerk’s office). Work schedules are usually weekdays, with weekends and major holidays off, and benefits are significant.

  • Key skills include:

    • Exceptional communication skills

    • Effective time management and organization 

    • Strong conflict resolution and interpersonal skills

    • Ensuring legal or policy compliance

You can get an idea of the jobs that use your current skills by conducting a simple internet search. Keep a list of roles that interest you, including the specific requirements and responsibilities of each one. This exercise can give you an idea of the potential opportunities available and get you closer to finding a fulfilling career.

Step 3: Fill any skill gaps

At this point, you’ve identified your transferable hard and soft skills and outlined a list of potential roles that can benefit from your experience. In doing so, you may have noticed a skills gap in one or two areas related to your desired career. Do you know how you’ll go about meeting those requirements?

There are many ways to go about upskilling. Consider Sam’s transition into a new role. One of their favorite things about their job is the promotional activities related to new beverage releases and the supporting digital content. As a result, Sam may be interested in learning more about branding and digital marketing.

Find an upskilling option that fits your needs

With edX, there are many ways to build new skills on a schedule that fits into your current lifestyle. Boost your technical abilities through an accelerated boot camp that can provide hands-on experience with modern digital tools, or build on your professional experience with an executive education course

Do you prefer a more comprehensive education, and have the time to pursue a formal degree? Explore bachelor’s degree programs in a variety of topics, or, for more advanced learners, a master’s degree can help you take your skills to new heights.

​​No matter what upskilling choices are made, a targeted approach to gaining desired skills can help fuel a successful career switch while maximizing the value of existing skill sets in the process.

Learn the skills you need to take the next step in your professional journey. Unlock more career resources by registering for edX today.

Last updated: September 2023