How do you avoid becoming “outdated?” How can you develop (or maintain) maximum marketability in today’s market?
The business world has been complaining about the “skills gap” for a while. Recently, the conversation around how to reskill and upskill employees has become more urgent.
This conversation tends to center around how to find people with the appropriate technical skills. I think it is the wrong conversation. Technical skills become outdated very quickly. How many Fortran programmers do you know?
Learning a new skill is a time and energy commitment. For many of us, time and energy are both at a premium. We are already struggling to keep up with the information and tasks that are thrown at us each day.
When I look at where I concentrate my skill-building resources, I try to bias skills with the following characteristics:
- Timeless – These skills will never go out of style or become irrelevant
- Human – They can’t be replaced by AI
- Don’t require lengthy and expensive courses or certifications
- Apply across fields and endeavors
- Can be practiced and applied anywhere
This list is not in any particular order. Choose the one you feel will most help you moving forward.
Skill 1: Learning how to Learn
The knowledge and abilities we need have been changing rapidly. Technical skills we have mastered suddenly become irrelevant. Our areas of expertise no longer seem to have value.
Furthermore, there is now growing recognition that adults continue to develop and grow well past high school or college. Unfortunately, this was not as widely recognized when many of us went to school. School is designed to help us become “productive members of society” (i.e. – “good workers”). As a result, we now need to (re)learn how to learn. Fortunately, we have help and there is a growing recognition of the importance of learning spaces for adults.
Skill 2: Observation and Pattern Recognition
Humans recognize patterns. This is the skill that has kept us alive. We unconsciously look for anomalies that signal danger.
We can use the power of pattern recognition in less stressful ways. We can use observation to get a feel for our environment. We can use pattern recognition for making sense of new information, developing models, and integrating experiences.
Skill 3: Focus and Prioritization
The ability to focus and prioritize is the key to getting things done. We live in a time of tremendous opportunity, creativity, and information. We currently have so much opportunity and information that many of us live in a constant state of overwhelm and struggle to express our creativity.
Focus and prioritization may be the skill that will be the most difficult to master in today’s environment. It requires the uncomfortable act of saying “no.” You run the risk of disappointing others. You may challenge your sense of belonging. You may “miss out” on things. However, focus and prioritization are the skills that will get you off the hamster wheel and make you more effective at work and at home.
Skill 4: Listening
I have found that the individuals who are the best collaborators and possess real influence are the ones who can deeply listen. To me, this skill is the key to improving relationships.
Skill 5: Asking Questions
Listening and asking
The quality of my relationships hinge on my ability to listen and skillfully ask questions. The ability to skillfully ask questions provides important information about the other person and the environment around you. The more accurate the information, the better you are able to make decisions.
I will go into more detail on each skill over the next few posts.