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The most important skill to keep your career thriving


DATE: 25 October, 2016

One of the most dangerous enemies of successful careers today is a university degree.

Now please — stay calm! I am a huge believer in tertiary education. It teaches us many life and career skills beyond the course content.

But here’s the problem: Many professionals rest on the laurels of a degree earned years ago. Their commitment to formal education is over. Now it’s all about ‘on the job’ training, and fine-tuning skills in the trench warfare of their industries. That’s useful learning, but it’s not enough.

Now is the time for every ambitious professional to make a renewed commitment to ‘education.'

It’s time for all of us to go back to school. And to accept that education has to be part of our lives for the rest of our careers.

We all know the pace of change is fast, relentless and inevitable. As a result, there is just no way our knowledge and relevance is NOT going to be compromised by innovation and newness. To counter this, we have to get brilliant at what Tony Robbins calls ’the most important skill to master in this day and age…. the ability to learn rapidly.

A mate of mine is a brilliant entrepreneurial leader in the education sector. He wants to create a ‘Nano Degree.’ It’s basically a never-ending degree. Every year the professional commits to say two units of new learning — on stuff just invented or just evolving. Companies commit to providing this degree to staff. It becomes part of their DNA. “Don’t spend $30,000 on an MBA,” my mate says. “Spend $2,000 a year for 15 years learning what you need to know now or at that moment in time.” Makes massive sense to me.

Here’s an example:

I’m a leader in the communications industry. If I was signed up to this Nano Degree, I’d be selecting these two units this year:

  1. Virtual Reality, and
  2. Facebook — its strategy, future and implications.

Those are the two burning issues I need to ‘learn rapidly’ more about to stay current in what I do. Oh, and maybe a third never-ending unit on Mobile, Mobile, Mobile and Mobile.

And next year? Who knows? What I need to learn then to stay at the edge of my industry will become apparent. It hasn’t become a burning issue yet. Give it another 12 months and it will be screaming out to me.

Now, these Nano Degrees don’t exist yet. But there are plenty of options available for you to take that approach now — but ‘do it yourself.’ Find online courses, lectures, seminars, workshops. Search out the books, presentations. TED Talks, conferences. Find mentors.

Be the CEO of your own on-going commitment to education.

Here’s the thing. If we don’t get cracking in keeping pace with new learning, we will quickly be over-taken by those who are being brought up with the stuff we don’t know.

Change the game. Thumb your nose at those would-be usurpers with a ‘catch me if you can’ challenge. And keep a very firm step ahead of the upstarts by commiting to your own Nano Degree —  the continual quest for education and new learning which will keep your career thriving for as long as you want it to.