Succeed in the workplace
Succeed in the workplace

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Succeed in the workplace

5 Skills developed through learning

Described image
Figure 5 Learning

When you completed the previous activity, you were asked to think about any training you might have had in any particular jobs. As well as this, you might have done courses outside work, such as evening classes for personal interest. You might have participated in a charity event that involved learning new things, such as deciding to learn to ride a bike to participate in a charity cycling challenge.

It can sometimes be difficult to see the full range of skills developed through learning. You might be clear that you learned to confidently ride a bike for the charity cycling challenge, but be less aware that while on the ride you developed your ability to talk to strangers more easily. It is easy to know that you have passed a test, or completed a tough climb, but it is sometimes difficult to see how you have changed in subtle ways.

The skills you develop during learning experiences can be a positive influence on your role in your family, your involvement in the community, or in your potential to do a job. There is much to gain from reflecting on your skills and qualities, and seeing how these can be used to enhance your career choices and your personal development. This reflection should help you to identify the more subtle changes as well.

The following activity illustrates this for you.

Activity 5 My skills developed through study

Timing: Allow approximately 15 minutes

This activity illustrates how the benefits of learning are not always obvious and encourages you to think differently about your own learning.

Part 1

Watch the video of actor and OU graduate, Stephen McGann, talking about how studying science added to his skills.

Download this video clip.Video player: using_a_career_1.mp4
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Stephen McGann
But there are more direct ways that I’ve actually used my degree. It’s given me confidence to take my degree and apply things I’ve learned elsewhere. Since I began my degree, I’m now doing something I would never have been able to do before. I now provide corporate training for the banking and capital market sectors. I exploited an opening, I saw a gap and I went for it.
I have since worked overseas with some very august institutions, providing soft skills services like communication, team building. Now, some of them pull upon skills I gained in the arts but a lot of them need skills that directly I gained through my science degree.
One particular course I did gave me some very practical pointers to where I could get material to construct my workshops, but to do these forms of corporate training you have to devise your own curriculum, in a sense. This is something I would never, ever have had the ability to do before my degree.
The key thing here is confidence. Not only do you learn skills of organisation, so you can build a two-day course in communication skills. Sure, I’ve been a performer all my life so I could get up on my feet, and there are certain things I could do, and public speak the way maybe other people couldn’t do, but that’s only a tiny part of the journey. The way to actually form those structures, delivered to very intelligent people in a way that is of use to them, was a skill way apart from the things I’d covered before.
And my degree, the reflective part of my degree, the way the degree helped me to structure information, was absolutely crucial. And so I didn’t use my technological computing degree, well, certainly not in all senses in my training services, in some small way I do, but mostly I used the secondary things that my degree taught me, which is the interface with human beings and complex systems of information.
And now my corporate training involves getting across complex information to intelligent but not necessarily fully informed people, which is part of what my degree has taught me, and so, therefore, you see a way — and it was certainly a revelation to me — you see a way in which your degree has benefits you don’t realise from the start. But then, of course, they are pretty directly related to the things that you’ve learned.
End transcript
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After you have watched the video all the way through, listen to it again, making notes on the skills Stephen says he developed. Record the main skills in the box below. You do not need to record these in your notebook because they are Stephen’s experiences, not your own.

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Part 2

Select a learning experience of your own and reflect on it for a few minutes. It is up to you whether you choose a formal learning experience, like a course of study, or a life experience such as moving country, or becoming a parent or grandparent.

Imagine, like Stephen, you have been invited to make a short video explaining to someone else how that experience developed different parts of you or new skills that you have been able to deploy in your life more generally. What would you say? Creating short rehearsed pieces of explanation about your learning and skills is good preparation for interviews.

Write a few sentences in your notebook as you might say them in a video. Then try reading aloud what you wrote.


When you read your piece aloud, did it sound convincing to your? If not, you might want to keep trying until you hear that note of confidence that Stephen McGann displayed.

As you have seen in last few sections, skills are acquired in many different aspects of our lives. The main areas where we acquire skills are:

  • working
  • studying
  • volunteering
  • caring responsibilities
  • having a hobby.

Some of these you may not have even considered before. So, hopefully, you are building a good picture of your own skills now and maybe you won’t take them for granted so much.

Now that you’ve identified the skills that you have developed, you need to consider which you feel most confident with, and which may require further development. The next section gives you that chance.

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