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15 Transferable Skills for a Life With Meaning

Now a star in her second field, she shares tips for a smooth transition


(This article previously appeared on LinkedIn. You can follow Lisa Sharkey on Twitter @lisasharkey as well as on Facebook  and Instagram @sharkogram)

I switched careers from TV news to book publishing nearly a decade ago and thought it would be helpful to note 15 skills that helped me make the transition successfully. I think this advice can be applicable for many, if not all, industries:

1. Having a Sense of Humor

In the newsroom, when reporters were all scrambling to get the story while we were live on the air, we would often tell each other: “It’s not brain surgery.” No. It’s. Not. Keep that in mind and try to look on the brighter side.

Make sure you are kind, caring and helpful to everyone, including the woman who empties your garbage pail each night.

2. Being Scrappy

I formed the pep squad in 6th grade when I did not make the cheerleading squad. That’s a good example of this. I wound up with pom poms and a leadership role in the bleachers. Never. Give. Up. Find a way to get it done. Go in the side entrance. Take a break and start again fresh until you succeed.

3. Being Persistent

My nickname working on Tim Tebow’s first book was “Mrs. Persistence.” The publication stopped and started more times than Tim’s NFL career, but the book ultimately came out and sold more than 1 million copies. Do not throw in the towel if your gut says there is more you can do. If at first…

4. Managing Up

Bosses are people, too, with real feelings and hearts made of things other than stone. Try to get in there and connect with yours. The last thing most bosses want is for you to be scared of them. Make yourself known for all the right reasons.

5. Managing Others

Make sure you are kind, caring and helpful to everyone, including the woman who empties your garbage pail each night. Know your bus driver, the waitress at your diner and the security guard at your office. You are no better than them.

6. Managing Across

Some of the best friends you will ever have are the people with whom you share office space. You spend more time with your team at work than with your family. Make it work. Get to know them. Look into their eyes when you talk to them and not into your phone. Work on getting over work-sibling rivalry.

7. Thinking Critically

You cannot just wing things. You need to turn your focus to the task ahead and give it some thought. Bring in other perspectives. Take notes. Identify the problem and create a solution. Do not get lost in your thoughts; turn them into action, accept the feedback you get and act on it.

8. Writing Well and Concisely

If you can write, you can make things happen. Write every day. Write emails to others, but send them to yourself first. Edit your writing. Edit it again. Take the time to masterfully whittle your thoughts into the briefest possible argument or ideas. Sell your ideas through words. This skill will serve you for the rest of your life at work and home.

9. Writing Without Typos

Just this week, I received a pitch letter filled with typos and bad grammar. Don’t let it happen. You will wind up in the trash file. Clean copy matters more than you know. Have a friend proofread what you write. Check it three times.

10. Maintaining Alien Status

Do not identify with your captors. Do not be afraid to be the lone voice in the room. Think of the wildest ideas you can and you can always scale back. Do not let the eye-rolling of others stop you in your tracks.

11. Working Through the Fear

Remember: fear is what holds us back from grabbing those dreams right off of the shelf. Yes, many of us suffer from fear of failure, or even fear of success. You do not have time to let fear rule you if you really want to accomplish great things. So smile and bear it.

12. Harnessing Your Intuition 

You have to be open to the ideas that simply come out of nowhere. That’s why it is so important to keep an open mind and an open heart and to let the universe guide you. I know it sounds so “New Age,” but it is actually true. We all have gut feelings and they need more TLC.

13. Behaving Like a Journalist

Journalists do not wait for stories to land on their desks, or at least the good ones don’t. Chase the story or the idea. Get to know the people you find fascinating in or out of the office. Reach out to them. Invite them for coffee, or a long walk or a phone call that lasts more than a few minutes. Do more than text and email.

14.Plugging Into the Zeitgest

In many industries, if you are not following trending stories every day — whether they are on websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook or your favorite newspaper and magazine sites — then clearly you are in the wrong business. Make being plugged into what you do each day your business.

15. Practicing Compassion

This is the No. 1 most important skill. Read all about it and practice it — not only on others, but also on yourself. We are human; we need to keep that in mind. Caring for yourself and your co-workers in a meaningful way means more than you can measure in an annual report.

By Lisa Sharkey
Lisa Sharkey is senior vice president director of creative development at HarperCollins Publishers in New York City and a visiting professor at Pace University M.S. in Publishing. She was formerly a senior producer at ABC's Good Morning America and president of Al Roker Productions. She is co-author of Dreaming Green: Eco-Fabulous Homes Designed to Inspire. Follow her on Facebook and on Instagram @sharkogram.@lisasharkey

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