Feeling less than qualified? Try this

Do you ever feel like you’re not really qualified to do what you do?

This week, I spoke with a friend and client who is starting a business offering demonstrations in la cucina casalinga – Italian home cooking. Simple food and pared back flavours, cooked with the freshest ingredients found in any farmer’s market.

It’s exciting to see a business evolve from her natural gifts. For the last decade, she’s travelled the world with her family and food has been an important source of connection. Everywhere they have lived, she has shared her love for simple Italian food with friends old and new.

Yet sometimes she wakes in the middle of the night, thinking “Who am I to do this? I don’t have any fancy chef’s qualifications.

If you’re changing direction, or breaking out of your niche, it’s easy to get caught up in credentials. When I first made the transition from law to corporate copywriting, I thought I’d have to go back to school. Who would take me seriously without a degree or at least a diploma in corporate communications?

When I look back now, that desire for credentials was really about my own insecurities. My clients didn’t care if I was taking extra papers at university – they only cared about the quality of my work. The only piece of paper they needed to see was the one that contained their project.

Now obviously there are situations where professional qualifications are essential. You can’t just call yourself a doctor or a lawyer or a real estate agent without the necessary study.

But for the most part, you don’t need extra letters after your name, to do what comes naturally. As I told my friend this morning, sometimes you just have to back yourself and let life be your qualifications.

What could qualify her more to teach Italian home cooking, than all those hours she spent by her grandmother’s side in the kitchen of her Tuscan home? Or her teenage years, helping her parents in their pizzeria? Or the decade she spent running a café with her parents in an Italian resort?

Before we met, I thought pasta carbonara was made with cream (or at the very least, a Maggi cook-in-the-pot sachet.) Luckily for my husband, I’ve since spent many a night in her kitchen, enjoying a good bottle of wine and an impromptu demonstration of pesto or pasta or tiramisu. It’s always relaxed and fun, and she makes me feel like this amazing food is something even I can produce at home – no fuss, no drama.

Going to cookery school would add very little to her knowledge of Italian home cooking or the way she teaches her classes. Frankly, if she had some fancy qualification from the Cordon Bleu (or the Italian equivalent) it might put off students like me altogether.

So that’s my challenge for this week. Let life be your qualifications.

If you’ve ever changed direction, or you’re moving into a new niche, how has your life experience qualified you for your new role? What skills have you learned along the way that you couldn’t get from any text book? Let me know in the comments below.

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