Don't Be Afraid to Learn New Skills

Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Another skill set I'm working on is taking more creative marketing photos.

As a writer and editor, I’ve held many different jobs over the years. I tried to make a go of it freelancing after I became a mom, but there have been different times where I’ve accepted contract or part-time positions in the field to keep the cash flowing in. It’s never been dull and my imagination gets the best of me sometimes. For example, there was the year I swore I was living in my own version of The Devil Wears Prada, only in a small southern parenting magazine instead of a New York-city based fashion magazine. The funny thing is, when I took my most recent job, the aforementioned editor told the hiring manager they’d “be a fool not to hire me.” Sound familiar? I had a good laugh over that one.

I now work in marketing about 30 hours a week for a small, regional nonprofit community theatre company, and for the first few months, I’ve had a lot of anxiety over what some would call my dream job. I mean, where else could I find a job two miles from my home, two blocks from my kids’ school, and with hours that still allow me time to freelance and work on my fiction projects? Exactly. But I let the fact that my predecessor left the company in a blaze of glory (and still makes her presence known in some way, shape or form at least once a week) make me feel like I'm inadequate for the job.

Luckily I’ve been listening to some pretty motivational business/entrepreneur/author podcasts as of late that have helped me work through my work-induced anxiety. I’ve begun to realize that I need to focus on bringing my unique skill set to the position, and for the things I’m weak at (cold calling local businesses for ads and sponsorships), I need to buck up and figure out how to do better. There is nothing in my job that I can’t learn how to do—it’s just a matter of setting small manageable goals (like I wrote about in my last post) and working through them.

For example, we have a popular summer series coming up and what I’m good at is finding unique angles behind the shows to pitch to the local media, which will help with our branding and generate more ticket sales. I chatted with the director of the production Steel Magnolias to find out how she plans to stage the set. That’s when I learned that the actress who gets the part of Truvy will have to learn how to wash, set and style hair—for real. The set will also have to turn into a functional beauty shop, complete with working sinks. Now that’s an interesting story! For sponsorship/sales, I’m making a list of businesses who have never advertised with us and stopping by to introduce myself and drop off marketing material without being pushy. I’m also slowly attending more community networking events. Sometimes the first step is the hardest, but I know once I do it a few more times I’ll start to feel more comfortable.

I’ve started focusing more on how this job will be an asset to my current set of skills and an opportunity to build new ones. And, as you can imagine, working with directors, actors, dancers, singers, etc., gives me plenty of ideas for new material, including plays. Just saying.

I’d love to hear how your own experiences in the workplace or working in the industry have helped you become a better communicator!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also works for a nonprofit theatre company. Learn more about her at


Margo Dill said...

I can't think of any time that learning a new skill is bad, unless it would be an unhealthy habit. :) It does make you feel weird at first, like you said, but I think back to when I just wanted to be a children's book writer, and all the new skills I've learned in the writing journey that have helped me to have the career as a writer and editor that I have today. Great post!

Margo Dill said...

Also I meant to add that my current job as an editor for an ag economics media company has taught we how to use Indesign, Illustrator and Photoshop, so now I have graphic design skills, too. And when I re-did someone's CV for my Editor 911 business, I was able to use some of those skills to make it look even better. so you are totally right! :)

Renee Roberson said...

Yes, I didn't have a whole lot of design experience when I started, besides managing my own Wordpress blog/website. Now I work in Photoshop almost every day and have learned some great design skills that are necessary in most marketing/communications jobs these days!

Angela Mackintosh said...

Awesome, Renee! I'm curious as to what motivational podcasts you're listening to? I need constant career inspiration. lol

You are so great at coming up with story angles. That's a great example with the working set.

I'm a self starter, so I think the jobs that have helped me the most are the ones that allow me the freedom to create my own initiatives. One of my favorite jobs was working for a directory where I designed a new publication--a fold out map of businesses--and sold ad spots for it. I think it helped me focus on ad revenue immediately when I started building WOW.

So, Renee and Margo, how come I didn't know you two worked in Photoshop (and ID and AI)? We always need social media banners, site banners, article headers, etc. Now I have support! :)

Mary Horner said...

Great post, Renee, I'm glad I've had to learn many computer programs through the years, and even if a job requires one I've never used, I've probably used something similar and know the types of functions the program can do, and that really helps. Recently I've begun teaching online, which has required me to learn more programs, but I like it, and I'm glad I did it!

Margo Dill said...

Angela--ha ha! yes, using the Adobe Suite products are part of my day job. I think I am still not overly confident in anything but Indesign, but I'm learning. Maybe that's why I keep it a secret. :)

Renee Roberson said...

I'm slowly getting the hang of a few of the design programs. We are trying to talk our boss into getting Illustrator so we can work in that, too. And I'm getting more experience with MailChimp and social media marketing. I just need to up my game on sales!

A few of the motivational podcasts I've been listening to are Entre Leadership and Goal Diggers with Jenna Kutcher. I think you'd really like Goal Diggers (the name cracks me up every time) because she started out as a wedding photographer and has morphed into marketing/content teaching and classes. She is very visual and her images are beautiful!

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