Evergreen Skills: What You Should Learn Now (3)

This series of articles has been focused on identifying those skills that are most likely to remain relevant to the average person for several years; perhaps even decades. This inevitably makes such skills extremely valuable, as discussed in Part 1.

Part 1 also provided a high level framework for career “forecasting”, on the basis of which skill relevance could be determined. Part 2 expanded on the discussion by proposing two families of skills: those skills that are evergreen irrespective of career path, and those that are career-path specific.

This post provides a list of what I believe will be the most evergreen “general” (non-path specific) skills over the next ten or so years; the ones everybody should learn NOW. It is worth noting that they have been relevant for decades already, and it is also worth noting that all of them will be immediately useful to you.

Without further ado, and in no particular order:

· Speed-reading

As long as communication and learning involve reading, this will be a high value skill. Use at home, at work, and at play. There are many good courses and books on this.

· Project Management

Understanding contingencies, dependencies, resource allocation, and concepts like critical path analysis is evergreen. It’s about a general way of thinking, not a specific methodology. It’s also worth pointing out that you need to study both the “traditional/waterfall” PM techniques and the “newer” techniques (like Agile) if you are to develop a deep enough appreciation to be able to apply this skill to many situations and thus make it truly evergreen. Most of the things you are involved in, and will be involved in over the course of your future life, are projects in one guise or the other. There is an abundance of project management tutorials online.

· Personal Effectiveness (see my posts on the topic here)

This is often mislabelled “time management” (as I discuss at some length in a series of articles starting here) and should be a no-brainer. The two most useful books I’ve read on this are The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker (don’t be put off by the title — I read it when I was 23 years old with only two years of formal work experience and it was very useful) and Getting Things Done by David Allen.

· Negotiation

Negotiation is and will be a part of your daily life for the next few decades so it’s worth becoming good at it. Getting to Yes by Fisher and Ury is a good starting point. A good ending point would be Raiffa’s The Art and Science of Negotiation.

· Managing Conflict

Like the Matrix, conflict is everywhere; it is all around us. It’s going to happen. You can accept conflict as a bruising and debilitating reality you will live with till the day you depart the earth, as most people do. Or you can turn conflict management into a skill that creates better relationships, higher performance, and a healthier and happier you. Read Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler (2002), and apply the lessons daily.

· Touch Typing

I’m 100% serious. People are wasting hours of their lives every week simply because they don’t type as fast as they could. Learning to touch type at speed is a skill I’ve been using nonstop for decades and it keeps on giving. Over the next few years I expect that speech-driven interfaces will really take off (I’ve been saying this for years…fingers crossed), but notwithstanding that this will remain a very important skill. The very fact that one can type quickly makes one more ready and willing to express oneself clearly and fully, prevent email overwhelm, write articles such as these, and generally not shy away from communicating. Swallow your pride, download touch-typing software and hunker down for an hour per day for about one week to change your life.

In the next post we’ll look at each of the career trajectories identified earlier and see if there are specific skills not already listed here that would be beneficial to those pursuing those paths.