From Art History to Soft Skills Training

 In Soft Skills

Guest blogger Audrey Halpern explains her journey from art history to soft skills training.

Consider this scenario; you are at a museum. You are strolling through the exhibits as your eyes try to adjust to what you are seeing hanging on the walls. Nothing makes any sense. You look at the piece of art and shake your head and walk out of the museum thinking, “ I can do that”. That was the scene that played out in hushed tones, over and over again as I spent time wandering from museum to museum throughout my college years.

I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in painting and art history which is a far cry from being a soft skills training facilitator.

My very first job out of college was as a docent in an NYC museum. The groups of tourists that I ushered around the museum knew next to nothing about art. My job was to make the art come alive for them. Art history can be very dry when you are talking dates and timelines. I found that through the use of analogies and telling stories I was able to make the art come alive, which resulted in a significant appreciation of what they were looking at  – it seemed to make more sense.

It occurred to me that what I was doing was “ selling ”.  Selling the idea, selling the story, selling the art. Selling for me became educating people about making informed decisions. I realized that the only control I had was the way I delivered the content of the information. That is when the Training Facilitator in me was born.

Working at the NYTimes selling ad space to art galleries seemed like the perfect start. I went through my share of sales jobs related to advertising and began to take on more of a training mindset. Having content and product knowledge was not enough, I wanted to solve problems and make things better.

According to CareerBuilder, 77% of employers say that soft skills, or the desirable qualities that apply across a variety of jobs and life situations — integrity, communication, courtesy, responsibility, professionalism and teamwork — are just as important as hard skills. And yet the commonality I see time and time again in organizations is the belief that training will fix these performance issues, team effectiveness, or countless other symptoms.

Training seems to be the sought after “quick fix” solution to enlighten employees and thus cure the behaviours once and for all. However, to get long lasting results and ensure success of employee development, trainers need to take the time to truly understand the need for the training.

It’s not enough that I have a good understanding of the problems, my clients must have a comprehensive understanding of their systems, and how they need to align with change and have the ongoing support of their leaders. In this way, I am able to directly influence employee careers.

My passion for developing people, messages, and my commitment to improvement proves to be what gets me to work in the morning (along with that first cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee… probably Tim Hortons in Canada).

Throughout the years, regardless of my role in training projects, I have come to realize that an essential component in my training facilitation journey has been my commitment to my own core values and taking the initiative to make things better

Like SkillsCamp’s mission statement, all of these soft skills are the missing puzzle pieces that are not taught in schools. These are the skills that help people become more employable and effective leaders and contributors.

As an Aries/Trailblazer, I always look for new technologies, ideas, and methodologies to improve my soft skills training facilitation. I enable, I help, and I offer a broad expert overview, rather than narrow self-interest. I am keenly enthusiastic about making a difference with a smile and a sense of humour and  eager to support others to do their best work.

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