I’m envious of people who have hard skills that they can offer to others. Whether it’s to make money, to barter or just to be nice, they have a skill that others need and they can take it anywhere.
I have benefited immensely from people like that over the years. Cousin Abby does hair (and saves me a fortune); Uncle John waterproofs basements, pours concrete and muds flawless drywall (and saves me a fortune); Father-in-Law Frank can paint a room with his eyes closed (and saves me time and a fortune); our good friend Matt is an electrician (and we owe him our first born grandchild for the time he has put into the houses we have owned); and Brother-in-law Aaron is a mechanic (and saves me a fortune and my sanity). How we got so lucky to have so many people in our lives who selflessly offer up their time and talent is beyond me.
I’m frequently left wondering what my husband and I can give in return. We just don’t have obvious hard skills that are in high demand. My husband is a middle school math teacher and I work in fundraising, and before that was a sex educator (yep). So between the two of us, we can teach your kid math, the birds and the bees and raise you money. I need my hair cut every 6 weeks, but how often does one need to give their kid “the talk?” My skills just don’t come in handy that often. As my hair keeps growing, our rooms need repainting and our house keeps falling apart, I continue to carry a certain degree of guilt for not having an equally sought-after skill to offer in return.
My point was driven home a year or so ago when our Leadership Team at my former job took a strengths assessment. We were doing some group therapy and read Strength Based Leadership by Tom Rath. As part of the experience, we took a survey to identify our primary strength. As we went around the table, my coworkers took turns discussing their strengths such as Strategic, Analytical, Developer, and Activator. Strong words that had obvious associations with hard skills that you need in the workplace. Then it was my turn to announce my primary strength…Woo. Woo? What the heck did that mean? Exactly what you might think. I can charm people, bring people in and develop interest and excitement. While that’s a lovely quality, it’s not a hard transferable skill! How many business professionals are out there touting their above average Woo skills? They’re not. They are DEVELOPING STRATEGIC plans, ANALYZING revenue cycles, ACTIVATING projects and seeing results. Not batting their eyes and being charming. I envision myself on a street corner with a sandwich board waving people in to get their taxes done. Now that takes a certain degree of woo factor.
My little foray into pie-making has started to help me fill this void in my life. All of a sudden, people are asking me to make them pie and I am gladly offering my services. I’ve been waiting so long to be able to do something for my friends and family. Finally, I can help with something that not many other people have the time, interest or energy to do. Pie! Look, I can still give a mean birth control presentation, but until anyone needs that, I’ll be in the kitchen.