“We are sorry, your service is no longer needed”… many people have had this phrase over the past few months of economic lockdown. With that, many have watched their worst nightmare come to pass. Unfortunately, many people will still hear this by the time economic activities fully resumes. It’s a reality we will have to deal with. Millions of people who have lost their jobs will struggle to find another job.
How can you remain competitive in the job market and business landscape? Could there be one skill that offers a career or business advantage? One skill that can secure your future from the heartbreak of looking at your job or going out of business? An important skill that will make you more valuable to employers than your peers. And if for any reason, you get laid off, can have you easily bounce back with a better job or business? It will interest you to know that there is such a skill. And I’m going to tell you what that skill is in this post and how you can learn it. You really need to read this piece to the end because there are valuable lessons to take away.
The Most Important Skill Today and in Future
First, you need to understand how quickly skills become obsolete and new ones are required in today’s market. Because relying on a particular hard skill may be detrimental to your career. Let me share from my experience. I started After School Africa website over 10 years ago. At that time, you only needed to have a website or blog and post keyword-stuffed articles to attract traffic. You needed to optimize your website for search engines; a skill requirement that keeps mutating every quarter. Then again you needed to practice what was called white-hat link building; a practice that is not that important today. Then there were social bookmarking sites like Digg, StumbleUpon. These were major drivers of web traffic. There was also directory submission and all that. People built their expertise and businesses around these tools, offering consulting and training services on how to use these tools to grow businesses or career; tools that have become obsolete today.
Then came social media; Facebook; followed by Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram. Oh, by the way, there was MySpace before all of them. And then, suddenly, businesses needed to have their own Android and iOS app. And now there is Video blogging, Podcasting! Looking through this timeline, you can easily see how quickly skills can move from important to useless.
A few years ago, no one knew about android or iOS development. Today multimillion-dollar app businesses and careers have been built. Presently, we are talking about AI, Machine learning, internet of things, virtual reality, Blockchain and all these other technologies. What’s even more interesting is that the skills to maximize the value of these innovations keep evolving. For instance, if you developed an android app seven years ago, you won’t be able to perform with the same skill set today.
In the midst of all these uncertainties, some professionals and businesses have continued to remain relevant in their industries. How are they able to do it? If there was one skill these people have in common, what would it be? Looking through this 15 year period of rollercoaster changes, it’s clear the one important skill to keep anyone afloat is what is called learnability skill.
What is Learnability?
In today’s rapidly changing workplace, it’s not what you already know that matters. What is important is how quickly you can learn what you need to know. Learnability is the desire and ability to continually grow and adapt your skillset. And it is the most important skill you can develop, no matter your occupation. Learnability will make you more employable for the long-term, than any other current skill you have. And this is best achieved through a consistent, intentional commitment to continuous learning.
According to a study by Manpower Group, up to 65% of the jobs people born from 1995 upwards will perform don’t even exist yet. And up to 45% of the activities people are paid to perform today could be automated using current technology. This won’t necessarily mean fewer jobs, but more jobs requiring different skills. Add to that the fact that 38% of employers say that they’re already having difficulties finding people with the right skills to fill open jobs, and it becomes clear that there are a mismatch and skill deficiency in the market. I don’t know who said this, but some people attribute it to Warren Buffet, “the more you can learn, the more you can earn”.
How to develop your learnability skill
If new skills become in demand as fast as old ones become obsolete, employability is less about what you already know and more about your capability to identify opportunities and learn the skills to harness them. It requires a new mindset for both employers trying to develop a workforce with the right skill sets, and for individuals seeking to advance their careers. Here are tips to help you develop your learnability skill.
- Build your own crystal ball
In 1975, Steven Sasson an electrical engineer at Kodak invented the digital camera. Kodak was so confident in their existing film-based camera that they failed to see the digital camera as the future of photography. They gave little attention to the idea. This idea, birthed by Kodak itself, turned out to knock them out of business. Moral of the story; don’t get too confident in your current skill.
You see, in today’s ever-changing world, you should do your best to see what’s coming in the future so that you can prepare for it. Yes, no one could have predicted the coronavirus outbreak, but we both know that the degree to which this pandemic affected people’s career and businesses varied greatly. While some businesses were shutting down permanently, some were increasing in share value. We can’t really predict the future but by learning from the past, we can envision what could come and be positioned for it.
- Become a self motivated learner
Ask yourself, when was the last time you read something from an unusual perspective, and not just another article one of your friends shared on Facebook? When have you taken the time to wrap your head around a new industry or idea? To engage in conversation on a subject outside your comfort zone? When was the last time you read a book outside your academic curriculum?
Don’t drown your curiosity in the online world of instant gratification. Learn to dig beneath the surface. Be willing to spend your own time and dig into your own pockets to get relevant knowledge and training. Take periodic online and offline courses. You will become more valuable to your current and future place of work. And if you aspire to start your own business, your learnability skill will be a valuable asset.
- Only stay with employers that encourage learnability
Innovative companies are interested in the learnability skill of their employees. If your skill level has not improved or you have not learned a new thing in your current place of work over the last year, you better start looking elsewhere. You need to be in an environment that stimulates you to continue learning.
- Seek out challenging opportunities in your place of work
Many organizations no longer pay too much attention to academic qualifications and hard skills. They understand that while these may be important, what entry-level employees learn during university often doesn’t equip them for today’s job market. So they look for employees who are enthusiastic and demonstrate a willingness to learn new skills.
Business owners want to offer the best learning opportunities to those who they know will take advantage of it. They make the opportunity to learn new skills a prize to be earned by demonstrating curiosity and a genuine interest in acquiring new knowledge. So you have to demonstrate this hunger to learn and ask for challenging opportunities. The more learning opportunities you get, the more open you’ll be to more learning opportunities.
- Follow Industry influencers and trends
It is important that you be at the fore front of where your industry is going. Look out for industry influencers and thought leaders to follow on social media. Listen to industry podcast and stay informed on trends and waves in your industry.
- Surround yourself with learners
You want to hang around people who encourage and influence you to flex your curiosity muscle. This is also why it is important that you choose a place of work that encourages learnability.
- Become an industry Thought leader
In addition to the following industry taught leaders, if you have a passion for sharing information and knowledge, you can start a blog, a video blog, a podcast or use your social media pages to build a reputation as a thought-leader in your field. This will keep you consistent with learning and also position you for bigger opportunities.
Remember, the more you can learn, the more you can earn. If you learned something from this article, we’ll appreciate if you’ll share it with someone.