Every skill is transferable

Every skill is transferable

It’s not easy starting a business or climbing the professional ladder, especially when you’re working-class.  

Public health communications specialists and writer Jennifer Williams tells us about her own struggles being a first-generation college graduate who had to overcome these challenges. 

And now she takes that knowledge and uses it to help other working-class people better their lives through education. 

If you’re someone who is struggling to find out how to navigate academia and the professional world, this is an interview you’ll want to hear. 

During her time with the Divine Purpose Podcast, Jennifer tells us what she learned the hard way so you don’t have to. 

Jennifer is candid about the struggles she experienced growing up working-class – struggles many of us can relate to.  

She talks about the death of her father at nineteen and her own health struggles. These experiences have turned her into an advocate for both the working-class and for those with disabilities and rare health conditions. Justice is what drives her. 

Jennifer tells us how she was encouraged by her grandmother to go to college but that no one in her family knew how to get her there. And she informs us about what it was like once she did get there and beyond.  

“We’re completely unprepared for it,” Jennifer tells us. “This culture is completely different from anything we know.” 

There are many things working-class people aren’t taught, things we have to learn on our own.  

When you’re working-class, you fill out an application and get a job. That’s not the case for professional positions. It’s about who you know. 

The first thing Jennifer wants you to know is that networking is essential.  

After finishing undergrad, she was having challenges finding a job. When she discussed this with one of her professors, they asked her about her networking strategy.  

“Networking, what unit is that?” She asked, thinking it was a class (sidenote: in this writer’s opinion, it really should be taught junior year

“I wish I knew that networking is so important. I wish I knew you really had to talk to people and meet people to get ahead. That’s not something working-class people automatically know.”  

Networking helps you foster connections which will help you grow in your career. But that’s a lesson reserved mostly for the upper middle-class. 

Being a first-generation college graduate is a tremendous accomplishment, but there are many things we don’t learn when in that position. Like which degrees are the most useful for climbing the ladder, or how to fund your higher education. 

Jennifer was accepted to an Ivy League university. But like many working-class people, she had to choose what would be the most affordable. And what was most affordable was a state college.  

Another thing Jennifer learned early on after finishing school was the need to set boundaries and be specific with project outlines. She learned that fast as a freelance writer.  

“You can’t be nice and do more because people will take advantage.” Know your worth and charge accordingly.  

And last, Jennifer wants you to know that “Every skill is transferable.”  

“If you can research something, you can research anything. If you’ve worked retail, you have customer service skills.” 

No matter your background, it has taught you something that is transferable to the next job. Never downplay the knowledge your experiences have instilled in you. 

Jennifer started as a historian who wrote educational information for museums and historical sites. She then transitioned to writing educational curriculum for social studies, copywriting for publishing houses, and finally writing for public health. 

Each of these experiences has laid down the foundation for the next.  

Originally wanting to be a professor, her job now as a writer lets her educate and advocate. When she writes she does so with intention, wanting to teach her reader about health and the medical challenges they’re facing.  

Jennifer considers one of her greatest accomplishments to be while in grad school and working as a graduate assistant to the dean. The numbers showed that first-generation graduate students don’t stay enrolled at the same numbers when compared to their peers who have family members with graduate degrees.  

Understanding this not only from looking at the numbers but also from having lived it, Jennifer decided to create a program to help other first-generation graduate students. 

The program taught seniors in college about graduate programs, funding, and introduced them to the culture of graduate study. It was her intention to help them not become overwhelmed with this new world. She wanted to keep them there until the finish line.  

One student told Jennifer that she was the reason they graduated. To that she gently reminded them, “You’re the reason you graduated because you stuck with it.”  

And this is what Jennifer’s goal is, “To make the world a better place, I want to leave it better in some small way. That’s my ultimate goal.” 

Written by James Leonard for the Divine Purpose Podcast