Wisdom//

The Single Most Important Skill of The 21st-Century That Will Take Your Career to The Next Level

You are fully responsible for your career.

Simona Temneanu / EyeEm/ Getty Images
Simona Temneanu / EyeEm/ Getty Images

The world of work is changing rapidly.

Today we work in a knowledge-based world. And your collective knowledge about your yourself and your industry are the key to your future.

As time passes, it becomes even more apparent that knowledge begets knowledge, and new competencies drive careers forward.

You may not realise it, but your skills, knowledge, and competency (past, present) are either helping you advance your career or hindering your progress in life.

Learnability (the desire and capability to develop in-demand skills) makes you indispensable

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn. — Alvin Toffler

When was the last time you read something from an unusual perspective in your industry?

When have you taken the time to wrap your head around a new industry?

Change is constant in today’s workplace.

To keep up, you need to keep learning. Learning drives adaptability.

Most people know this, but it’s often easier said than done.

Between deadlines, meetings, family life and everything else in between, there isn’t much time for a career-boosting class but you can change that.

As long as you are ready to take responsibility for your career.

No matter where you are on the career ladder, it’s important to continue learning and develop new skills.

It’s the only to survive in the 21st century.

Brian Tracy once said, “Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.”

He is right! The ability to acquire better forms of knowledge and apply it when necessary will make you great at what you do.

Investing in learning new skills is essential to stay relevant in a changing landscape as the economy evolves and technology improves.

Embrace career learning

The more you learn, the more you earn. — Warren Buffett

Learning helps you become more open to change. Learning new skills should not be a source of fear and stress.

You can make time to improve yourself and get better at what you do.

When people embrace lifelong learning, it becomes another part of their career journey.

A learning mindset makes it less likely you’ll be thrown off when a project changes, your employer changes growth strategy, or when a job function undergoes transformation.

While others scramble to figure out where to go from here, lifelong learners maintain momentum and productivity even in the face of radical change at work.

Personal career development is fulfilling.

A continuous learning process will both stimulate and empower you as you acquire the relevant knowledge, values, skills, and understanding you will need throughout your lifetime.

A learning mindset means you can freely move between tasks, jobs, regions, and countries. It’s the one skill that can take all of your other skills to the next level.

And guess what, the ability to learn and adapt in any work environment will be there for you at every stage of your career, no matter what else changes in our unpredictable world.

Short-term and long-term learning goals

Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough. — Alain de Botton

Time is finite.

We only get the next hour once, and then it’s gone forever. So choices about how we spend or invest our time come with real opportunity costs.

Think about the skills and knowledge you need to stay current now and prepare for the future.

You don’t have to learn every skill at once but you owe it to yourself to be the best you can be.

To be an effective learner, any skill you choose to learn should fit into the bigger picture of your life and work — your career path.

Learning can help you meet immediate or future needs.

If you intend to improve your skills in the next three or six months, you can get feedback from your employer about your skills that may need upgrading.

Other clues like tasks you tend to avoid or struggle with because of knowledge or skills you don’t have can help you choose what to focus on now or in the future.

You can also focus on the big picture, define your career path and choose the skills you need to get to your ultimate career goal.

This can help you develop new skills that will be useful beyond your current position. If you want to pursue a specific management role, find resources to help you build the skills you need to prepare yourself for the future.

You can even find a mentor and talk about your learning goals and what to focus on to advance your career.

What’s your learning style?

Do you learn best on your own or in a group? Do you prefer audio, video or a combination of both?

Are you a hands-on learner?

Depending on your current circumstances, you can pick the opportunities that suit your learning style including hands-on workshops, or video-based course if your learning style is visual.

In the abundance-based economy of online learning, opportunities are endless. You can learn on your own, at work, from mentors or role models.

You can also learn online following blogs, downloading podcasts, taking a class, etc. Or through magazines, journals, seminars, videos, and broadcasts. And you can also learn by attending classes at an educational institution, in person or online.

All kinds of learning opportunities are just a “click” or a conversation away.

Create an action plan and pursue learning like your career depends on it. State your goals, timelines and resources you need to achieve every goal.

And then set up a series of steps to start you on your way to a successful learning experience.

Final thoughts

Whether you’re considering changing jobs, applying for a promotion or starting a new career, upgrading your skills changes everything.

Learning is an investment that usually pays for itself in increased earnings.

No matter what level of education you have, if you want to succeed, you need to keep on learning.

More than ever, learning is for life if you want to stay relevant, indispensable and thrive in the changing world of work.

Tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today!

Adapted from my recent book: Working in the Gig Economy: How to Thrive and Succeed When You Choose to Work for Yourself. It’s a guide to successfully navigate the new flexible and changing world of work, and pitch yourself as an indispensable expert in your industry.

Before you go…

If you enjoyed this post, you will love Postanly Weekly, my free weekly digest of the best posts about behaviour change that affect health, wealth, and productivity. Join over 50,000 people on a mission to build a better life. CoursesThinking in Models, and Kaizen Habits.

Originally published on Medium.

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