You shouldn’t learn Digital Marketing just because it’s in the list of some ‘top 10 skills to learn in 2023’ blog post. Freelancing might be a waste of your time, even though someone you know generates a handsome amount of money every month and inspires you to follow his path. One skill that earned your friend fortune may disappoint you.
In this article, we’ll dive into how to make informed decisions about what skills to learn based on your unique situation. From assessing your current skillset to identifying your learning objectives, you’ll learn the formula for success.
I will not give you a list of skills here, but you will know what you need precisely. We’ll consider four situations:
1. If you need to start a money-making career ASAP
For whatever reason, you’re looking to start a career – it could be a full-time job, part-time gig, internship, freelancing or something else. You want to develop professional expertise and start earning in 3 to 12 months. You’re unsure which industry or path to choose. Consider this –
Will you be paid well?
Make a list of easily monetisable skills. Skills that people are willing to pay money for. Typically, technical and creative skills that align with business objectives are more straightforward to monetise.
If you have freelancing in mind, explore their job categories and pick a bunch of categories or specialisations that interest you. If you prefer full-time jobs, research in-demand entry-level roles on job portals such as BDJobs and LinkedIn. Create a list of 10 such skills.
It’s not necessary to only choose popular or in-demand skills. If you discover a niche that very few people are talking about and you have a genuine interest in it, pursue it. Becoming a top expert in a niche area can make you unstoppable, thanks to the internet.
Will you have fun learning?
Ensure that all the skills on your list can be self-taught. Some skills, such as law, medicine or civil engineering, require formal education or traditional training and cannot be self-learned. Select skills you can learn yourself with the help of resources such as books, courses, videos, and mentors.
Now take the time to research each skill on your list thoroughly. Learn about the immediate income opportunities, relevant roles, job responsibilities, advantages and challenges, learning curve, and long-term possibilities. Try to understand why you should learn the skill; and why it might not be for you!
Don’t spend money on research. Search on YouTube and Google. Ask thoughtful questions on relevant Facebook groups. As you explore, pay attention to which topics you enjoy researching more, as these will likely be your areas of interest.
Select 2-3 skills that showed potential during your research, can be self-taught, and you have an interest in. Be confident that becoming an expert in any of these areas will lead to success.
Do you feel it?
Now start learning your top 2-3 skills. Master the fundamentals, learn the techniques and gain hands-on experience.
I would advise against offline training or extensive bootcamps at this stage. Instead, consider enrolling in introductory online courses. If you’re looking to save money, you can also find free courses and YouTube playlists. (Let me know if I should write a separate article on finding good online courses.)
After learning the basics, you should understand the difficulty levels and your interest in the topic. You will now know what it takes and whether you are up for it.
When you find the right skill, you’ll feel a burning passion – that’s your call to mastery.
Now master it.
Pick a book to read, enrol in a structured and comprehensive online course, find a community of learners, follow experts in your field, start small projects as you gain proficiency, and practice solving problems and recreating other people’s works that inspire you.
As you gain confidence, try to find a mentor and work for him. This could be an informal apprenticeship or a formal internship, paid or unpaid. But it’s crucial that you are given a chance to learn and make mistakes.
Over time you will feel ready to take on professional challenges and charge for your work.
It won’t be easy. Building confidence takes time and effort, but as you see yourself improving and not giving up, you are on the right track.
2. If you are starting your own business
If you’re like me, you want to take the reins and build something of your own – maybe an agency, organisation, IT firm, startup, solo business, following, website – anything.
But building something takes a diverse set of skills. Starting a business, for example, involves many different aspects such as product and service development, operations, promotion, client relationships, finances, and accounting. With so many tasks to tackle and so many skills to learn, where do you begin?
Find out what significant skills, roles and activities are required to build your thing. Make a list. Of that list, identify which ones you have an interest in and which you can learn. Don’t set an ambitious goal of learning a complex topic in quite a short time. Instead, find other people to do the job – finding suitable people is a skill in itself. Accept that you can’t and shouldn’t learn/do everything and make friends with people who complement your skillset.
Take me for example. As an entrepreneur my passion is to build products and sell them to customers. That’s a lot of work, one aspect of which is developing the website or app. But I can’t code.
I have two options. I can either invest time and effort into learning to code and then build the app myself, which would delay the launch of the product. Alternatively I can find a developer or technical co-founder, which would be a faster option. Delegating that work also allows me to focus on my strengths: identifying and solving customer problems and selling the solution.
Note that my goal is to build my business, not to learn coding, so outsourcing coding is the most effective way to achieve it.
However, having a basic understanding of all the necessary skills can be helpful as it allows you to collaborate better with team members and take more informed decisions.
3. If you are just looking to start learning and are a bit aimless
It’s alright if you don’t have an immediate objective of what you want to do in the short time. You are not pressured to start making money or build a business immediately.
Maybe you have just realised that to be a better version of yourself and make yourself future-ready, you must start developing yourself. Perhaps you want to explore. You are wondering which areas you need to work on first. Ask yourself –
What do you want to accomplish?
Think of what you want to be in life in 3 to 5 years. Create a list of at least 10 future accomplishments, or ‘big goals’, for yourself. Be open-minded and don’t hold back when making this list, even if some goals seem silly or overly ambitious.
Once you have your list, reflect on each goal and identify which ones excite you the most. Maybe you can relate some of them to activities you enjoyed during childhood, someone you admire or whose lifestyle inspires you.
Select the top five goals from your initial list of ten.
What skills do you need?
For each of your top 5 goals, make a list of critical skills required to achieve them. For example, being an entrepreneur may require skills in leadership, communication, stakeholder management, and networking. As a freelance content writer, you may need skills in writing, client communication, and marketing fundamentals. You’ll notice that some skills overlap across your multiple goals, such as solid communication skills.
Once you have jotted down all the skills for all the accomplishments, notice –
- which skills are most common across different accomplishments,
- which skills can be learned on your own,
- which skills excite you the most
You will have your list of skills from your top goals. Go ahead and learn the top 3 skills.
But if you’re in no hurry.
Start with skills that are necessary regardless of your background. Communication, Productivity tools, languages, and essential creativity like design and writing – skills like these are no longer considered bonuses, but rather a requirement today.
Additionally, you can study the biographies of people who inspire you.
You can also learn anything and everything that makes you curious. Just wander around, get into the habit of learning every day, and you will naturally be interested in some topics you can dive into and later capitalise on.
4. If your job demands you to learn something
In your current role, leave your comfort zone and take on more significant responsibilities. And more significant responsibilities require upgrading yourself with new skills.
Consider learning skills that enhance your current job skillset. For instance, if you are in finance, learning Excel is a must but also try learning Tableau or Power BI for more robust and large-scale data analysis.
Also consider having knowledge of tasks done in other departments. For example, as a developer, learning the basics of marketing tools can aid in integrating them in your application and in having more meaningful conversations.
But do think twice if your job demands learning or doing something way out of your field.
So whatever the situation, the high-level method is simple: Ask yourself what you want – no matter how scattered your aim is. List what is required – however incomplete the list may be. And teach yourself that fires you up. Don’t overstress.
Start this way, and you will find your way.