Today’s task for 31 Days To Your Financial Future is all about practicing those marketable skills. It could be a skill you need for your current job, or a skill you need to develop for a job you want to move into. It could be something you need to learn before you can quit your day job and launch that business idea that’s been burning in the back of your mind.
In every industry, the range of salaries paid to workers can be surprisingly wide. Take graphic design, for example. There are graphic designers who do work for $5 a pop on Fiverr. There are other graphic designers who command thousands of dollars for a single logo.
It happens in law, too. Some attorneys barely make enough to pay the rent on their office; others earn six figure salaries representing large corporations. This same spread happens in every industry — waiting tables, manufacturing, web design, programming, counseling, auto mechanics.
So…why do some people earn more than others?
Obviously, there’s no single answer. Certainly a certain amount of luck, ambition, and social maneuvering is involved. In some industries, maybe even a little corruption. But do you want to know what I think is the single most important factor deciding whether or not you can command the highest prices in your industry?
It’s whether or not you are the person who has completely mastered the skillset that industry requires.
Those high earners are very often people who have sunk hours into learning everything there is to know about their field.
They are graphic designers who have tried dozens of different imaging programs, who have studied elements like color theory, composition, typesetting, and who have created project after project until they have mastered the art of amazing graphic design.
They are attorneys who read voraciously about the latest laws, precedents, and opinions in their chosen type of law. Not only that, but they are attorneys who have learned the showmanship, oration, and resourcefulness that a great attorney needs.
If you want to get paid more, you need to know more.
If you want to know more, you need to practice.
In her book Smile Anyway, author Richelle Goodrich says:
Do it again.
Play it again. Sing it again. Read it again. Write it again. Sketch it again. Rehearse it again. Run it again. Try it again.
Because again is practice, and practice is improvement.
What would make you better at your job?
I want you to make three lists, one each for the primary, secondary, and tertiary skills your job requires (or your dream job requires, if you want to start working towards that goal).
Primary skills are skills that are vital to your job; a manager, for example, must know how to motivate, lead and manage the people on their team.
Secondary skills are skills that are important to your job, but are less vital than primary skills; a manager often needs to know how to create reports and deal with statistical information. They often need to know how to resolve conflicts, both internal and external. In many cases, they need to know how to be the public face for their team.
Tertiary skills are skills that might not directly relate to your job, but provide you with a unique stand-out advantage. A manager who has studied counseling might have a unique grasp of conflict resolution, for example.
Here’s another example. Pro football players, obviously, must know how to play football. Running, dodging, blocking, throwing, understanding every facet of the rules of the game are their primary skills. The top players are also great showmen. They are entertaining on the field and on the mic. The best ones speak well. These are their secondary skills. Many players also practice tertiary skills that enhance or augment their primary skills: dance for balance and agility, martial arts for focus and intentional motion, weight lifting for strength.
Once you decide on your primary, secondary, and tertiary skills, start taking the time to practice them every week.
You might use a simple 3-2-1 system:
- Spend 3 hours a week practicing primary skills
- Spend 2 hours a week practicing secondary skills
- Spend 1 hour a week practicing tertiary skills
That’s just six hours a week — one every day, plus a free day off. You can do that.
What qualifies as practice?
Practice is information plus action. If your job requires complex software like Photoshop or Peachtree, you can read every tutorial and guide there is for that software, but until you actually sit down, experiment within the software, and see how things work, you won’t achieve a full understanding of it.
That doesn’t mean reading and learning isn’t important — it most certainly is. I’ve already talked about the value of reading voraciously. It’s just that reading about something only tells you what you need to do.
Actually trying to do it is what shows you how.
I’ve decided recently that I want to become a better public speaker. It’s something that I think is going to become a primary skill for me in the years to come. I enjoy speaking to an audience when I’ve had the opportunity, but I’m not as comfortable with it as I’d like. I get nervous. I tend to rush my words. I’ve read a lot of about public speaking. I’ve watched tutorial videos and courses. What I haven’t done is practiced it, again and again, until it becomes second nature.
So later this month, I’m attending a Toastmasters International meeting. If it’s a good experience, I’m hoping it gives me a safe avenue to practice my public speaking. It will almost certainly be a nice opportunity to expand my professional network.
How can you practice the skill you want to develop? Experiment with it. Evaluate it. Read about different methods and techniques. What works? What doesn’t? Learn about the history of the skill. How did it develop? What new developments — technical, cultural, or otherwise — have changed the way that skill interacts with the workplace?
Most importantly, repeat it again and again. Do you remember the first time you learned a keyboard shortcut for something on your computer or a particular gesture for your tablet or phone? The first few times you used it, you probably had to remind yourself that the shortcut or gesture even existed. Then you had to remind yourself which keys to use, and where to place your fingers. But you kept using it, and eventually, it just became second nature. You didn’t have to think about it.
That’s what practice does for you. It takes you from awkward conscious action to smooth instinct. And people will pay big bucks to someone who can instinctually solve their problems.
Tomorrow: Break An Expensive Habit
Habits make or break your success. Throughout this series, we’re talking about good habits to develop to help you manage your money. Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about the bad ones, and how to keep them from inhibiting the growth of your wealth.
What are your skills?
What skills are important for your job? How skilled do you feel?
Photo by Brian Richardson.