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Chamber of Skills: members and colleagues on their tips to get ahead


Today is the launch of National Skills days, part of the National Careers Week campaign, a chance for everyone to show they have skills – wherever they are. To get involved, show off your skills on social media with the hashtag #MySkills

Making sure we have the right skills is going to be key to restarting the economy as we begin to emerge from lockdown. The skills landscape will have changed – digital skills are going to have a great deal more emphasis placed on them in a socially distanced world, and we’re going to have to be innovative to balance safety and productivity.

It’s not always the hard skills that can help further your career though, and you’re not using all of your skills just to further your career. I’ve had a chat to some Chamber members and colleagues to find out two things: the skills they’ve honed to get ahead professionally, and the skills they’ve honed… down the pub.

Rachel Anderson, Assistant Director of Policy, Chamber of Commerce

Professional skills: "I think diplomacy. It’s the ability to recognise when to do things behind the scenes and when to make lots of noise and which is most likely to get the result you want."

Personal skills: "A drunk bet on a Friday night in the pub.It was one of those conversations where you say, "wouldn’t it be fun to put a bit of a band together for giggles". We already had a keyboard player, bass player, lead singer, a lead guitarist and, randomly, a mandolin player, but no drummer.More drinks were had, and I found myself volunteering to learn drums having absolutely no experience and only once having had a go in a shop.It was however something I'd always wanted to do.The day after, when I'd sorted my hangover out, I couldn’t back out so off I went to the music shop in Darlington and ordered a set.Learned to play from there and have played in two bands.haven’t played in anger for a long time now - family etc has got in the way but I still rattle around the kit occasionally."

Sean Seddon, Reporter, The Chronicle (Reach PLC)

Professional skills: "The only thing I can think of his social skills. It’s a job that makes you very good at speaking to people from a vast array of backgrounds and that’s a very transferable skill."

Personal skills: "I can play some instruments canny well. Does that count?", and when further prompted as to how he got into music - "I don’t even know. I think I just realised I was never going to be good at football. I’d always liked singing when I was little I think. I’m self-taught which I rationalise as it being a very good hobby for an introvert. I have a very extroverted job and a very introverted hobby. I’ve only just realised this. There’s got to be something psychological going on there."

Jack Deverson, MD, Evidence Based Education

Professional skills: "There are a few that I've definitely developed. One is getting over the imposter syndrome of running a business, leading people and holding my own with big names in the industry and region - so confidence, I suppose. That came from studying Chinese and being on the year abroad at uni I think. I was - and still am - an introvert but was cripplingly shy before being thrown out into a year in China. That definitely gave me a lot of confidence in myself and who I am.

Most importantly, though, on balance, is just organisation. On a personal level or a business level, really. I think being organised and planning out the days, weeks and months with clear goals in mind - working out what the most important things are and breaking them down to achieve them. That's probably my biggest strength."

Personal skills: "Music was one - so I already mentioned my co-founder and I also play in a band together. But the back story to that was taking a ukulele to my year abroad to learn to play it, then being roped into a provincial talent competition by my teacher (without my knowing what it was, really), and having to play and speak in Chinese in a theatre of about 900 people. I'd never played in front of more than one other person before then!

And, again as I mentioned, slacklining. I picked this up before China but made loads of friends over there just by people coming up and wanting to have a go. I don't have as much time to do it at the moment, but it's like a strange form of meditation, as you can't be thinking about anything other than balance - as soon as you do, you fall. I don't think there was as good a story to this one, but it was my co-founder, again, who gave me the slackline as a birthday present before I went away for the year. He has a lot to answer for!!"

Arlen Pettitt, Knowledge Development Manager, Chamber of Commerce

Professional skills: "Most helpful in my career - it's a soft skill, but being confident talking to people. It's not something that came naturally to me, but it's something that I worked on through my 20s so that I could walk in a room and comfortably contribute to a meeting, network or present to an audience. No real secret, just doing it enough that you build confidence."

Personal skills: "Random skills - I play guitar, which is boring because half the population do, but I did teach myself in my teens. And I've used that same self-contained trial and error approach to learning on a whole range of things since...academic study, poaching eggs, baking bread, wrapping burritos, putting up shelves."