One of my readers recently asked: “I like the idea of building a career based on strengths and skills. What are good income-generating skills to acquire?”
That’s one of the best questions I’ve received. I often write about how Peter Drucker and many other business thinkers believe that you should generate more value in the marketplace.
And that the best way to generate value is by acquiring valuable skills. But what are skills that are actually valuable to organizations? In my experience, there are many skills that are useful.
But there are 7 skills that actually produce income because they instantly impact the bottom line of an organization. I only stick to skills that every professional can and should acquire. Here they are.
Persuasion is the #1 income-generating skill I can think of. And that’s probably not a surprise to you. If you’ve read enough articles on personal growth or listened to enough interviews with successful people, you know that persuasion is everything.
You sell yourself and your ideas all the time. In fact, I’m persuading right now. There’s nothing bad about persuasion. People simply don’t want to be sold. I’m not any different.
But true selling is nothing more than problem-solving. A lot of people assume you become better at sales by selling. But I learned that you become better if you learn more about human psychology and why people buy.
I’ve been saying this for years: Writing is one of the most important skills in today’s economy.
The ability to translate your thoughts into words in an effective way will help you to stand out from the crowd. I’ve built my whole career on this skill.
Writing is also an income-generating skill that has a quick return. A minor improvement will yield a big result in your career.
3. Public Speaking
Every time you’re answering a question in a group setting, talking to your team, or trying to get a bunch of people together, you’re public speaking. You don’t have to be a TED speaker to acquire this skill.
Explaining ideas clearly is hard. We often use way more words than necessary. The funny thing is that we all think we’re good at speaking.
We talk all the time, right? So we can probably stand in front of a crowd and give a little speech, right? I wish it was that simple.
The reality is that speaking in front of a group requires practice. Otherwise, we either go on and on or we say nothing useful at all.
In my experience, most people in business lack communication skills. What does communication even mean? It’s nothing more than sharing ideas and feelings effectively.
The emphasis is on “effectively.” In other words: If people don’t get you, you’re a lousy communicator.
And how often does it happen that people don’t get us? Often, right? And how often do we assume the problem is with the other person or group? Exactly.
The problem is not them, it’s you. That’s good news: You can fix the problem by becoming a better communicator.
This is one of the skills that will give you the best bang for your buck. The majority of people are addicted to their smartphones and can’t focus for more than 90 seconds.
If you improve your ability to focus on a difficult task, for several hours at a time, you will be surprised by how much you can get done. And what happens if you get more done? That’s right, you’ll get more rewards.
The more value you can provide, the more likely you are to earn more. Now, if you acquire the above income-generating skills, you can definitely provide more value.
That’s great. But you know what’s even better? To lead a group of people to do the same. When you always focus on yourself, you will only get so far. But if you focus on achieving results as a group, you can make true leaps.
The skill of leadership is a complex one. After all, the best leaders are the ones who lead by example. But there’s more to leadership than just setting a good example. That’s why high-performing salespeople are not always good sales managers.
I also don’t believe that leadership can be learned from books. You simply need a desire to be a leader. And if real leaders in your environment see that, they will show you the way.
7. Decision Making/Reasoning
A lot of people never looked at decision making as a skill. Why is that? Anything that you can learn is a skill in my eyes.
The reason most people think decision making is not an income-generating skill is that they look at outcomes. You don’t control outcomes. For example, I can decide to publish three articles a week. But that doesn’t mean more people will read my articles.
That’s why I don’t look at outcomes. Instead, I look at the decision making process. How can you improve that? A popular answer is to adopt mental models.
I think that’s too much work. Instead, I recommend improving your reasoning skills. Decision-making is essentially reasoning applied to your decisions.
My favorite way to get better at reasoning is to study philosophy. What philosophy doesn’t matter. All philosophy is reasoning.
How to learn faster
Often, people say something like, “Well, that was a nice article but it didn’t tell me how to do it.” Those folks are not interested in actual learning. They think they can learn how to acquire 7 skills in a single article. I wish it worked that way.
The reality is that it takes time and effort to get better at these skills. You’ll have to take classes, read books, talk to experts, get coaching, you name it.
Scott Young recently published a book called Ultralearning with excellent tips on mastering hard skills. I recommend reading that if you’re interested in learning faster.
But the main lesson here is that acquiring income-generating skills is difficult. And that’s exactly why it will make you stand out from the crowd. When you have the skills we talked about in this article, you’re not only a skilled person, you’re someone who knows how to learn.
And somebody who knows how to learn can learn anything.