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What Nobody Told You About Skills

I was 22 years old. I had just landed a job that paid exactly 10 times more than the job I had before.

I was ecstatic. The company had a great reputation. People who knew me would congratulate me and tell me how lucky I was to get the job. When I received my first pay-cheque (paying salaries via EFT wasn’t common yet) I didn’t even know what to spend it on.

I was great at what I did. I loved it. My employers loved me. I had just bought my first (new) car. I could see myself staying there forever.

Then 1 day, a colleague mentioned to me that he had heard someone telling someone else that my post was going to be advertised in a few months. All my plans came crashing down. I couldn’t believe it. They wouldn’t do something like that would they? And without telling me?

After the initial shock (and fear) wore off, I decided to ask the relevant person in management if this was actually true. His first question to me was, “Who told you this?”.

“I just want to know if it’s true”, I told him.

“Well, see we have to consider a lot of issues at managerial level especially in an organisation of this size. We’re not advertising your job, we’re just seeing what’s out there.”

I thought of the A rating my manager had been routinely giving me. Didn’t that count for something?

I wondered to myself: Is there a problem with my work? Have I been doing something wrong?

“Look”, he said, “We may want to expand the division soon and that’s why we’re looking for others who can fill a post similar to yours. Don’t worry about anything.”

That day I realised a few things:

  • Job security is a laughable concept
  • I could never ever allow myself to be lulled into a false sense of financial security simply because my name was on an employment contract
  • I’ve got to learn to help myself
  • I can’t expect an employer (or anyone else for that matter) to be concerned about my wellbeing
  • My happiness will always be my responsibility
  • I didn’t like the thought of 1 person being able to potentially impact my life so greatly
  • If 1 person’s decision could literally turn my entire life upside down, I needed to make sure that person didn’t have that power any longer

So I started a business on the side. Then another. And then 1 more. Remember, when I say business I don’t mean I had an office. Or employees. Or even a business card. Or even a business name. What I did do was create a few income streams.

I just didn’t want 1 person to have so much of control over something (my income) that affected every other area of my life.

Anyway, after a year I resigned from my job. I could do this because I had options. Nine times out of 10, when a person tells me they’re unhappy with their job, they use the words, “But what else can I do?”

Here’s what: Start building your options.

When I find myself in a situation that isn’t bringing me the happiness and /or fulfilment that I’d like, I do everything humanly possible to improve it. If it doesn’t improve (or if I know I’m hitting my head against a wall) and I need to walk away from it, I do the following:

A) Make a list of the skills I will need to get out of / improve the situation.

B) Build those skills.

C) Make a decision without being afraid of what will happen.

7 Things Nobody Told You About Skills

  1. Skills are options in disguise. The more skills you have, the more options you have to choose from when you find yourself in a situation that’s making you unhappy.
  2. Nobody can devalue a skill. But they can devalue a qualification. (I’m not implying that qualifications are worthless. I’m saying your income shouldn’t solely be predicated on the existence of a qualification)
  3. Unlike qualifications, you don’t need permission to use your skills. No association, council, committee or self-appointed authority can prevent you from using your skill to earn an income. The only person regulating the extent to which you can use your skills, is you.
  4. Governments, regulatory bodies, self-appointed councils etc. will always have the power to decide the value of your qualification. Someone showed me an article recently that stated, “South African teachers with qualifications from distance-learning institutions such as Unisa and web universities are no longer allowed to work in Qatar ” 
  5. Skills allow you to sell your time on your terms.
  6. There are great employers and horrible ones. Skills give you the freedom to walk away from the situations that aren’t conducive to your happiness.
  7. It’s extremely important to build a set of skills so that the number of people who can make a decision that will drastically impact your income (and a major portion of your happiness + the happiness of your family) will be as small as possible.

Note: Whenever I speak about the important of building your skills, I’m invariably asked whether I believe people should leave their jobs. This obviously isn’t what I believe. I do believe though, that you should have sufficient options to leave your job if and when you’d like to.

I say this because your job will massively impact not only your health, marriage, happiness, fulfilment, success & well-being but that of the people you love and care for as well.

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