5 skills I learnt as a parent which are transferable to the workplace
You’re in an interview, someone asks you to explain a time when you have used a specific skill. Your mind races through the various initiatives and projects you have been involved with at work. You start to panic.
Have you considered thinking of examples away from work, not just your hobbies but from home. How you run your home and how you look after your family uses a host of skills which you have already mastered, but people often overlook and don’t use them as examples.
When I started thinking about writing this article, I was surprised how many skills I could think of which are ‘transferable’ between being a parent and the work environment. I have limited myself to five skills, but I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions.
I was never very good accepting help until I had kids. I always thought that if someone offered to help me, they thought I couldn’t cope. When I had my first child I was the same, politely declining anytime a family member offered to look after my baby. Now, if you want to look after my kids, I book a spa day before you change your mind. Yes, there are a lot of clothes in his bag, but you might want to keep him for the whole weekend maybe even a month.
Parenting is a team sport, whether your team-mates are partners, parents, friends or neighbours, being too proud to ask for help or accept it when it’s offered is counter-productive and the same is true for work. Collaborating ultimately leads to less stress, stronger relationships and better outcomes. Obviously, if you offer to help me with my work I will work alongside you and not book a spa day...hmmm.
Communication (and a positive mindset)
“What is doubt?”
“What does ‘precisely’ mean?”
“Does mmm mean yes or no?”
An inquisitive five-year-old leaves no room to be vague. I always prided myself on being clear when I communicated at work, but now I am even more mindful of the words I use. This isn’t limited to catching the odd expletive which may slip out when he is pulling over the contents of a supermarket shelf. I focus on using positive language. I no longer talk about failure, I speak about doing better and improving. This has given me a massive mindset shift which is brilliant for the workplace. I remember working in organisations where the manager would say ‘we don’t need to reinvent the wheel’. In hindsight, I can see how this negatively affected the entire company and people were too nervous to suggest ideas in case they were considered too radical. When my son says, he wants to a build a machine to catch the clouds, I ask him what we’ll need to build it!
Dealing with judgement
All the great websites, books and classes about becoming a new parent will never tell you that one day you will find yourself on the floor in Marks and Spencers while your child screams in full tantrum mode and a hundred judging eyes look on. As a parent, you just get on with it. You prioritise your child over what you look like and the same is true at work. Obviously, you should be presentable and you’re not allowed to lay on the boardroom floor and have a tantrum (tempting as it may seem), but sometimes at work, you have to make difficult decisions. Sometimes you have to be the bad guy and sometimes you make mistakes. You have to shake off the feeling that everyone thinks your incompetent or inadequate and do what you do best…your job. After a while, you realise the negative judgement is in your imagination and you are your own worst critic.
Before I had my first child I remember watching people with kids and thinking they were terribly disorganised. My husband and I agreed we would be different. The changing bag would always be packed. We'll always be able to grab it and head out the door quickly. Oh, how naive we were! Kids need stuff and the stuff changes. Hats, suncream, jumpers, snacks, bottles, a photo of him as a baby, something he can use to make a rocket ship, money, money, more money and wet wipes (always wet wipes). I am prepared for any eventuality, that’s critical thinking and adapting to change skills in action, considering what could go wrong and what needs to be done to prepare for when or if it does.
The school run has had a recent addition, a scooter. It took me some time to get used to him out on the road, some distance ahead of me (he can scoot faster than I can run!) and once I told him to not cross the road without me, to my surprise, he listened. I started to trust him to do as he was told and this is one of the hardest parts of parenting, letting go. It’s also one of the hardest skills to master in the office. Delegating work while
being supportive but not overbearing, trusting team members to do what they have agreed to do and rewarding and nurturing the trusting relationship while still ensuring everything gets done.
I love learning new skills and I love being a parent, it’s so fortunate that the two go hand in hand.
If you’ve enjoyed this article or wants to discuss any skills you think are transferable from parenting, please leave a comment.