“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” Albert Einstein
Progress has always been achieved as the result of the specialization and division of labor. We succeed each day because we focus on a single task that creates value in the marketplace and generates the income we need to acquire necessities of life (food, energy, shelter, transportation), which were produced as a result of the specialization of others. It’s specialization that creates value. The more valuable your specialization, the higher you will be compensated.
Specializations change over time as market conditions, technology and other factors evolve. For instance, we have moved from the Industrial Age to the Digital Age and then to the Information Age very quickly. These changes have massively displaced people who did not upgrade their skills. As we move into the Innovation Age, this displacement will be repeated. Therefore, it becomes a matter of survival to create skills that endure over time. Keep a mindset of continuous personal improvement so you can transform your skills over your lifetime.
Your skill set should be valuable, since the more the market values your skill set, the greater the demand for your services, and the higher your compensation, which enables you to reinvest in yourself and to make yourself more valuable as the cycle repeats.
Your skill set should be unique. We live in a highly globalized world where competition has moved from local to global, from physical to online, from generalist to specialist. Becoming exceptional at a niche skill will enable you to sell to the broader global market, not only your local market. It will also make you an expert and build a strong personal brand.
Your skill set should be enduring, particularly in this age of significant technological, demographic and economic change. Focus on a skill set that can withstand the changes of time. For instance, people, financial and leadership skills are base skills that will serve you well, no matter how the world changes.
Here is how to create a unique, valuable and enduring skill set:
- Stick with one occupation or sector for an extended period of time, so you can develop deep expertise in that area.
- Pick a trend that is rising, like a wave, and is multiple decades long (e.g., genetics). Avoid industries in decline.
- Strive to be the best in your sector, no matter what it may be. Eventually you will get noticed.4. Constantly seek to improve all levels of your personal and professional development. Never stagnate.
- Invest heavily in yourself through taking courses, seminars, reading quality books, and any other skill upgrades.
- Get external, qualified, third-party assessments of your strengths and weaknesses. Be brutally honest with yourself.
- Make transferable skills a priority, particularly in the areas of leadership, communications, time management, finance, public speaking and interpersonal skills.
Eamonn has a B. Eng. (Electrical) from Lakehead University, MBA (Finance) from University of Toronto, and has completed Executive Education at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He lives in Vancouver, Canada. Follow him on twitter @EamonnPercy.