Friday, July 19, 2019

5 Skills That Give You an Edge in Life & Work

work skills

Skills I Didn't Know I Had

As you well know, “what do you do?” is a common small-talk question.  I find it tiresome, and one I'd just as soon avoid.

Last summer I answered this question and the man then asked, “but haven't you developed some career skills by now?”

For the past ten years, I've designed purses and wallets.  In addition to designing and creating them, I also marketed and sold them online and at shows.  

Although my frequent encounter with versions of this man's dismissiveness had led me at times to think I don't have a "real" career, I've recently come to see otherwise.  

Kind of like exercising a muscle that rarely gets used, working as an artisan and entrepreneur has left me with an array of invaluable skills--skills I wouldn't have developed had I pursued a more traditional career, such as the credit union job I had right out of college. 

In no particular order, here are a few.  

Keep on Keepin' on 

Probably the most important skill I've developed is the ability to press on even when something seems inconceivable.  When I first started sewing, for example, a product that I could only sell for about $9 would take HOURS to make.  

It'd have seemed sensible to have hung it up.  However, I pressed on for several years and, in time, the construction took much less time.

Resident Expert

As a corollary, I've also become convinced that you can become an expert in anything, including something you totally suck at right now.  I witnessed this with my sewing ability.  Over the years, I went from barely being able to create a drawstring bag (with sloppy stitching) to being able to sew sophisticated wallets with precise stitching.  

This conviction is so helpful as I set out on new pursuits.  The key is working on that skill a LOT.  


As I just mentioned, after doing something 30K times, you're going to get pretty good at it.  Or at least reasonably so.  And yes, I've easily taken and edited that many photos over the past ten years.  These were photos of purse and wallets, mostly.  

Now, with my iPhone 7 Plus, I've kind of gone cra cra.  Over the past three months alone I've taken over 3,500 photos of all sorts of things--landscapes, flowers, buildings.  

While shooting family photos over the summer two relatives mentioned I consider working as an amateur photographer!  

Social Media 

I've read and listened to so much from "the experts" about social media, selling online, and digital marketing that, by now, many of the concepts seem intuitive.  

I honestly don't GET the kind of people who say things like "I don't get Twitter" or "I don't get hashtags", as I understand them all too well.    

For me, the challenge is taking the knowledge a step further and actually applying the skills on a consistent basis.  


When you don't know exactly how much money you'll be making in a given month, you learn to budget.  

It's tough to gage how much you need to spend in a month.  And to identify which splurges you can afford and which to pass on.  In my early 20s I was completely clueless as to how much groceries should cost, and once spent $80 on a single trip to QFC!  Way more food than I needed.    

By now, seeking out a (somewhat) minimalist lifestyle has become intuitive.  In fact, while traveling in Europe I've often spent as little as $1,000 in a month!  And I've learned where to seek out affordable alternatives to things I want but can't afford (did somebody say ebay?).

Your Own Swiss Army Knife

Well there you have it---a few skills I've picked up along the way.  

What skills have you gained from past work or life experience?  How do they help you in your life today?


  1. I know how you felt when the guy asked why you hadn't formed skills and didn't have a career yet. I work outside the home full-time, but I'm also a blogger and I could be doing blogging 8 hours a day and still probably not be spending as much time on it as I need to. They don't take anything (especially guys) seriously that doesn't fall into their proscribed "career/skill" set. Sounds like that's just a sign of their limited talents and artistry rather than of your choice of career :P It's a great list of tips and pointers you've come up with. I will say that I am struggling with social media. I mean, I've been using it for many many years but I really dislike the politics of anything they (let's say Pinterest and Facebook) decide is a moneymaking venture of a user and I really hate hashtags.


    1. Yeah, I agree that social media is a struggle. For me, it's hard to be real on these platforms when people are so often rude or simply out to promote themselves.
      Wow, 8 hours a day, you're a pretty serious blogger! Well I hope that you find a way to put all the time that you want into blogging, if that's what you want to be doing!

  2. It is great that you could connect with some skills that helped you with life and work a bit. The more you work on something, the faster you become at it. I'm glad that you became really talented with sewing and kept trying to find ways to improve yourself. Oh man, I can relate to you about photography! It took me ages to get decent at it. I know my assertiveness helped me with work a bit because I take no excuses from people unless it is legitimate. It helped me be able to tell the difference between laziness and capability. Thanks for sharing! :)

    Nancy ♥

    1. Assertiveness is a great skill! And yeah, probably helps a lot with developing a career.

  3. This is such a great read, Nancy and very timely too. I'm at the point in my life where I'm seriously considering the minimalist lifestyle. In fact, I'm taking little steps towards it. And yes, I saved quite a bit instead of buying it for some random cute stuff I won't use.

    1. Thanks, Sarah! I know, it's so easy to buy things we don't really need. But it's so much nicer to have a home that's clutter-free. Can be a struggle to find the balance.


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