One of the things that many of us have realized during the pandemic is that we need to pick up some new work-related skills. However, picking up a skill is a significant time commitment and it is important to choose it carefully. Here are some examples to clarify the kind of work-related skills I am talking about: (a) learning a statistical software such as R; (b) improving one’s public speaking ability; (c)developing proficiency in marketing and sales.
Another aspect is to know the action plan forward, assuming the goal is to master that skill to our satisfaction. How are you going to get to that goal? For the above examples, one could: (a) take a few classes on a platform like Coursera; (b) join a local Toastmasters group; (c) shadow a marketing and sales professional. This article is mainly about “what” skill(s) to hone and not about “how” to acquire the skill(s) as the latter is context dependent.
I would like to acknowledge that it is not easy to come up with a list of candidate skills that you could choose from to work on. However, it would certainly help by spending some time journaling various options in a systematic manner, asking around a few folks, and reading up on high-demand skills. However, before jumping ahead, it is important to look inward to understand what is driving us and what could made is happy.
To start with, you can write down the things you are good at and the things that interest you. Then you need to understand what things are likely to keep you employed, and also get a sense of what the world needs now as well as in the near future. According to the Japanese principle of Ikigai (see YouTube video), a path to happiness is doing things: you love, you are good at, you can be compensated for, and the world needs.
Next, write down your core values (if you are not sure about them, there are websites that list anywhere from 50 to 500 common core values, just Google them and download onto a spreadsheet). Try to group the core values into a set of 5–10 so that in each set there is a common theme. You may find out that you are leaning more toward some core values at work more than others.
Finally, see if you can identify your purpose. Admittedly, this is difficult to do, but there are a few paths: (1) Tim Tamashiro’s TEDx talk on purpose in life through Ikigai; (2) Simon Sinek’s work on “Start with why”; (3) Billur Suu, Dominick Quartuccio, and others on writing your own eulogy to discover your purpose.
In summary, you have a list of possible skills you could acquire, you also know based on your past where you stand in terms of Ikigai (what you love, what you are good at, what you can be paid for, and what the world needs), you have figured out your core values, and you have a reasonable idea of your purpose in life. Now how do you pick one or more skills to work on? For each of the possible skills you need to do the following (example at the end).
Test the Waters
Remember that it is quite a commitment and you want to be sure that you stick with the action plan to get to skill level you are aiming for. You do not want to go on a whim and try something to regret it later. Less than 10% of students that enrol in an online course end up finishing it. So it is important to test and see if the skill you wish to pursue is something you would be good at and something you are interested in.
Make Sure it Fits
Once you are convinced that you can get good at it and you have interest, you need to make sure it fits the other two Ikigai conditions. Chances are that your employer would find it desirable (that is why you have it on the list), but do check that you can create an impact. Then ensure that the skill (and how you acquire it) fits your core values. Finally check that either the skill itself or the outcome of acquiring the skill are in line with your purpose.
Schedule an Action Plan
First step is to find an action plan to acquire the skill. Most often it is by taking some classes online or in person. Assuming that the action plan can be identified (such as by enrolling for the most appropriate course after doing extensive research), the next step is to build it into your routine. That means blocking off time in your calendar each week to do the activity.
As an example, consider Anna Conda who specializes in Python programming and works for a travel-services company. She has identified two possible things to work on: to learn Chinese; and to improve her listening skills. She knows that she is interested and is good at languages, speaking, and socializing. Two of her core values are creativity and humor. Her purpose in life is selfless service.
Say that as an optional action plan she could take an intensive Chinese course, and join an improv class for the aforementioned skills. To test the waters, she could try Chinese on a software platform such as duolingo, and take an introductory class on improv. Once they are both alright, then next is to see how well they fit. Based on the experience Anna can decide if either fit her interest, core values, and purpose. After that she could schedule the one that fits best.