Follow an unusual career paths and you will pick up a diverse set of skills. Later in life it will be that unusual skillset that enables you to make a mark when others get stuck in the pack.
In a rapidly changing world, diversity of personal skills is as important as the diversity of the teams that you join. Nobody is tied to a job. Everyone can learn something new. Make it your challenge to learn another skill every year at a minimum. Pursue opportunities that broaden your skills, knowledge and experience. We are all increasingly working in portfolio careers. The challenge is to be prepared.
Here are some skills & capabilities that I’ve found critical:
- Persist: life throws challenges. The obstacles are the work and the reward. Learn how to push on to your goals and sustain the journey. Knowing why and understanding your own needs is critical here.
- Listen: a completely underrated skill. Learn to listen between the lines. Learn to listen to what is not said. Listen actively questioning for understanding and learning. Don’t compose your reply. Listen deeply for insight.
- Learn a new language: Jargon is everywhere. Learn the new language quickly. The faster you speak the lingo the better you build rapport. Plus understanding the grammar of the new business language tells you what matters in a business.
- Tell a story: a story is not a list of events. A story engages with challenges, conflict and drama. You need to be able to share your passion for the story. The ability to tell a genuinely engaging story with passion is an art. Practice it every day.
- Influence: before you can lead, you must influence others. Study and practice the art. Understand how to find the alignment of others’ agendas and your own. Learn how to hustle and to sell. Remember listening is more important than talking in influence.
- Construct an argument: understanding how to communicate an argument quickly and effectively to an audience is key. Whether you are writing an email, preparing a PowerPoint or having a debate in a meeting know how to argue to influence. That’s different to arguing to win.
- Negotiate: everything is negotiable. Learn how to negotiate effectively.
- Learn to say no: Often and early. Priorities and values are a key to success. You will need a polite no to preserve them.
- Use visual images: visuals work. The better your visual grammar the better you will understand how to engage others.
- Run a project: the basics of project management help get stuff done. Most failed projects break simple rules. Learn how to manage simple project to delivery.
- Risk everything (aka swim in the deep end): you are not learning if you are doing something you can already do. Risk=Reward.
- Patience: no matter how young and brilliant you are you will have to wait at some point. Timing is everything in life and a career. Some times things just need to line up first. Make sure you have patience for when it is needed.