In the age of the influencer and instant expert, there is a lot of competition in the entrepreneur space. It can leave one feeling unqualified and susceptible to imposter syndrome. In a build-your-own-dream economy, the totality of one’s experiences are relevant beyond formally (or otherwise) trained skill sets or previous career choices.
Even as entrepreneurs come up against uncharted territory while finding unique ways to deal with the ongoing pandemic, the trick is to not be intimidated by the context of the know-how and look for transferable skills one already possesses.
Before giving in to the feeling of being unseasoned, take a look at your life and your everyday experiences to uncover some marketable and bankable skills you can take to any boardroom or new endeavor.
Sales and negotiations
Have you ever participated in a school fundraiser, hosted a bake sale, sold Girl Scout cookies, or even ran a lemonade stand? You have a product. You set a goal. You approach your ideal clients (also known as family and friends) to help meet your sales projections. You record the sales. If you find you are shy of your goal, you push harder, overcome objections and close the deals. You collect payments and deliver the product.
Did you put up a table for the fundraiser? If so, essentially hosted a storefront. Hosting a table produces additional skills in business operations and negotiations such as where to place the table, what are the hours of operation, who (if anyone) gets a percentage of the sales or is there a fee to set up the table and how much?
Whether you ran the fundraiser yourself or served as the “sales team” for your kids’ fundraiser, these innocuous events are oftentimes the first foray into entrepreneurship and the skills learned here translate to any sales scenario no matter the product or service.
Communications and public speaking
A big source of communications skills comes from your family interactions. Whatever your upbringing or family unit was like, that was where you first learned to communicate your needs and desires.
As entrepreneurs, how you communicate will have an impact on the health of your business, from your team members to vendors to investors to your audience. There are four recognized communications styles: passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, assertive. Each has its own pros and cons, but each is adaptable. When you look at your family life and how you communicate, it’s easy to pick out your style. From here, you want to recall how this style worked for you and your siblings. What were the outcomes, good and bad? This mimics how you may have business discussions. In addition to communications, family life also teaches more skills including problem-solving, active listening, and even productivity.
When it comes to public speaking, did you participate in “show and tell” in grade school where you had to get up in front of the class and give a short talk? You presented your talk while learning the art of public speaking, keeping people’s attention, entertaining the audience and mastering the art of brevity. These presentations were less than 10 minutes. Sound familiar?
This is good inspiration to draw on for entrepreneurs who are also aspiring TED or TEDx speakers wondering if they can actually do what’s required. Your experiences are internal life markers. When you recall a moment in time, it all comes back to you. It’s not learning a new skill, it’s mastering an undeveloped skill and the only way to strengthen it is to use it. Don’t discredit an experience because it seemed minuscule. It’s not about the size of the lesson, but rather the use of it.
Leadership and teamwork
Leadership skills often lurk in a series of firsts and a series of failures. For instance, first job, first home, first relationship or first sibling even job, business and relationship failures hone leadership.
Other places to find leadership skills are in playing sports, playing an instrument, serving in some capacity on a team, board or any group ensemble.
Leadership is about implementing and finding solutions. It’s less about being in charge or holding an arbitrary title and more about being persuasive and moving people to action.
When leaning into leadership, look for instances of taking the reins of a moment and bringing it to a satisfactory conclusion or not. Ironically, we learn leadership skills from bad and ineffective examples from ourselves and others.
No entrepreneur is an island. No matter how solitary the work. Teamwork is essential to success. From the moment we entered this world, there has been somewhere there to help us. Collaboration is a vein that runs through us from family members to coworkers to bosses to friends and beyond, as the saying goes, teamwork makes the dream work.
Whether in your past experiences, you liked using any of these skills or did them all while afraid, these are principles and tenets that are marketable and bankable.
You have a well-earned degree in the school of life you can now use to run your business.