Lorna Stephen, a diploma graduate from the University of Edinburgh who will start a traineeship at Standard Life in September 2017, explains how any skill – in her case dancing – can be transferred and applied in a professional context.
Anyone who knows me will know that dancing is a large part of my life. I first took it up at the age of three when my mum dropped me off at the dance classes in the local village hall, and I picked up ballroom and Latin dancing when I came to University. I still compete with the university as an ex-student and as part of the national Dancesport league as well.
My parents have been sceptical about how useful dancing would be to my career so, to justify why I might have spent more time dancing than in the library, here are the skills I have learned that will be useful for my traineeship and beyond.
Dancing requires the discipline to make a schedule and stick to it to ensure you don’t let your partner down. This includes regular lessons and practice several times a week.
Also, after every competition, my partner and I take stock and look at what went well and what we need to work on so that we can start to plan for our next big competition and make the most of the time we have to prepare. I also know that the dancing won’t get any better if I don’t put the work in and that is true of anything that I want to improve in my professional life as well.
Ballroom dancing especially has been a crash course in communication. We all know that communication is a big competency for potential trainees. But with dancing you need to be able to identify issues with particular steps, and offer potential solutions for these issues.
This can be hard after a long day of dancing (and sometimes things do need to be referred to your teacher for arbitration.) But knowing how to communicate with someone in a way that is productive will help me to solve problems at work whilst maintaining good working relationships with my colleagues.
As I competed with the University, I was part of a much wider team and it was important to support and encourage others on the team too. Competitions can be long days - you often start getting ready from 6am and they can run to midnight, so keeping up morale becomes very important! Being able to support my team mates will help me support my fellow trainees and reach out for help should I need it.
By being committed to my dancing and actively contributing to the society, I was lucky enough to become president of the society in the final year of my degree. This gave me the opportunity to lead a large committee to organise weekly classes, competitions, and social events. This helped me learn to balance lots of different priorities from running the society on a strong financial footing, to inspiring new dancers, and ensuring everyone had a good dance experience.
Before I came to University, I wouldn’t have said that you would develop career skills by being covered head to toe in fake tan and sequins but my experience has taught me the importance of getting involved and developing transferable skills. I’m looking forward to using these skills in my future career. I just might need to leave the sequins at home.