Rowan Morrison, whose career spans writing, publishing, consulting and who is now co-founder and MD of Rationale, a strategic brand and communications agency with offices in London, Edinburgh, and New York, recently shared her thoughts on the key soft skills she believes you need to succeed in life and business, as part of an interview with Gee Foottit on The Switch, a podcast series hosted by the St James’s Place Financial Adviser Academy.
The Switch has been designed to help people from all backgrounds make the leap from one career to another — often from hugely unexpected backgrounds — whether they are just starting out, a few years into their current career, keen for a fresh start or re-entering the workforce from a career break.
Rowan shares advice below on how it’s becoming increasingly important to develop soft skills that are transferable through time, and across industries.
Walk through the doors that open up to you: I had no set plan at university. When starting out, I had no idea I wanted to experience more than one profession. I would describe myself as a career opportunist and a bit of a neophile! I’m an experience magpie and when opportunities open up to me, I tend to say yes. Hard work opens doors for you, but you have to walk through them.
Always swim out a little further: I enjoy high-octane work and living on the edge, so I’ve been drawn to careers in that vein; the ones that challenge me to go beyond my comfort zone. I want to live as much life as I possibly can in the time I have, and I see work as a central part of life. One of my heroes, David Bowie, said you should always go a little bit further out into the water than you think you’re capable of being and when your feet no longer touch the bottom, that’s where life is. That’s where the exciting stuff happens. For me anyway, that’s when I feel like I’m on the right course.
Be open to learning from your mistakes: As human beings, we have a lot of fear. We’re very fearful of making a change. We think of the reasons “why not” before we think of the reasons “why.” I think we’re capable of so much more than we think we are. Making mistakes is an important part of life and if you shy away from them, you’re closing a door to so much opportunity to elevate yourself and develop yourself as a human being. No matter what age you are and what level of responsibility you have, aim to fail fast and don’t be scared. Nothing is final. If you make a mistake, you can change it. We’re here for a very short space of time, so why not try?
Be a stickler for high quality: I care about quality and doing a good job. I think this basic thing has impressed managers that I’ve had which has led to progression, which has led me to being able to do what I do now. Be memorable and always deliver on what you promise because then people will recommend you. Recommendations are the gold dust of how you grow a business.
Make it personal: From a personal brand perspective, people buy into people rather than organisations, so put yourself at the forefront of your business. There are ways you can do this that suit your personal style. Analyse your skill-set. For example, if you enjoy public speaking and you’re good at it, find opportunities to speak. If you’re like me and enjoy writing, write blog content. There are lots of different platforms through which to amplify yourself.
Think about the stories you can share about yourself. Think about what you like to do in your personal life. I’m a trail runner for instance. When I talk about it with clients, I can see that they find it interesting. We talk about that and then the talk about marketing can come later. It’s about creating ways to be memorable, so they remember you for you. It’s also enjoyable to talk about what you love within a business context. It can give you confidence if you’re new to a career or entrepreneurship. If you’re talking about something you’re passionate about, you’re creating a safer space for yourself.