Why Skills are More Important than a Job

Having a job is a good thing—the problem is complete reliance on it! That, unfortunately, is where most people are. The loss of a job can set a chain of financial catastrophes in motion, and even threaten the survival of a person or an entire household. Is there an answer to this dilemma? Is there a way to enjoy the benefits of a steady paycheck—preferably one with medical insurance—without being so totally dependent on your employer?

There is—the answer is skills, your skills. And not just any skills but two specific types that rise above all others: transferable skills and retail skills.

Everyone brings general skills to their work—management, administrative and organizational skills, typing, computer skills, “people skills”—we can think of them as the minimum requirements for employment.

But transferable and retail skills are much deeper. They’re skills that are in demand, easily recognizable, portable and have application across different industries and business types. When you have them, your ability to earn a living is never in doubt—even if your current job is.

Transferable skills—the ticket to employment security

Transferable skills are valuable throughout your industry and even beyond. They’re the type of skills that can have a direct impact on a company’s bottom line, such as sales or web design, and can easily be verified by production numbers, a portfolio of your work or some other easily recognizable form. They’re even more valuable if you have them to a greater degree than most in the field–that means being better than average.

If you have transferable skills and you’re work is known outside your company, you probably enjoy a great deal of employment security—there’s always someone willing to hire you even if your current employer doesn’t need you any more. If you’re not at that level, you need to get there.

Most employees are content to master only the minimum skill levels needed to perform their jobs and remain with their employers. Others develop skills that are so specific to their current employer that they have little value anywhere else. There’s little thought to preparing for the next layoff, the next job or the next economic cycle. Retooling, if it comes, happens only after a long periods of unemployment and often involves a costly return to school for yet another degree.

How do you develop transferable skills before a job crisis forces your hand?

  • Pick a function in your company that’s crucial to the operation of the business—or any business—and take steps to gravitate into it. All functions in a business might be important, but some are more valuable than others and that’s where you need to be.
  • Take a course or two at a local college to learn the basics of a desirable new skill. That may not get you a job in the field, but it could open up some opportunities that will.
  • Look for a part time job where you can “apprentice” into the new skill set.
  • Develop the skill as a hobby or even as a side business and then grow into it.
  • Become the resident expert at what ever you do in your job. For example, if you work in an administrative capacity, learn all you can about common software applications like Word, Excel and Power Point. With software applications, there are many practitioners but few experts. But those skills are highly transferable and if you become an expert with them, your future prospects will improve significantly.

”Retail” skills—the ticket to a future without limits

Retail skills are just what the term implies–it’s the ability to sell your product, service, or trade directly to the general public. They’re the kind of skills that are not only valuable to employers, but can readily be converted to self-employment. All options are open to you if you have them.

I had this explained to me many years ago by a plumber who came to fix my dishwasher hook-up. He pointed out the difference between plumbers who work in the building trades—where layoffs run with the boom/bust cycle in housing—and repair plumbers who work on existing systems and therefore have work (and plenty of it) on a continuous basis. Building trade plumbers don’t know repair plumbing—it’s a different function entirely—they need someone to hire them and become employer dependent. But a repair plumber can work for someone else or for himself—he’s never unemployed.

Not all jobs and careers lend themselves to retail skills, but many do. Some examples include:

  • A corporate accountant who has his CPA license and also prepares income taxes seasonally.
  • An IT worker in a large company who also does computer repair or web design work for private clients.
  • A company salesman who develops a sideline selling a product direct to the public that’s unrelated to the one he sells for his employer. He’s good enough at selling that he can sell nearly anything so self-employment is always an option.
  • A manager who has worked for several companies during her career, solving significant problems at each, and developing a substantial referral network, all of which providing the ability to develop an independent consulting business if ever she chooses to do so.

Any of these people could quickly convert to full time self-employment, selling their services direct to the general public in the event they lost their jobs or decided they no longer want one. No matter what happens, they’ll always have an income. This is the optimal situation to be in because it enables you to move back and forth between a job and your own business, or even to have both at the same time.

What if you don’t have either transferable skills or retail skills?

You can develop them–and you don’t have to wait until a job loss forces your hand.

We all have some spare time for something as important as insuring your income in the future. Identify the skills that will be a good fit for you, learn them, and then put them into practice. You can do it gradually if you have a job, or fast forward it of you don’t. If you’re unemployed, or under-employed—and many millions of people are right now—you owe it to yourself to do what you need to do to retool with the right skills.

I decided that had to develop a retail skill of my own and chose freelance blog writing. I’ve never done any kind of professional writing in my life but it’s working well for me. If you decide you need to develop retail skills, make sure that what ever it is will be something you’ll enjoy doing, comes naturally to you and is something you can sustain over the long haul.

Look at what others are doing and see if you can work that into your own skill set. It doesn’t even have to relate to your current job, but can be an adventure into something completely new. As long there’s a market for what you want to do and you have the skills to fill it, go for it.

If blog writing is a retail skill you’d like to learn check out my post, The Freelance Blog Writer Side Hustle. It’s a skill that you can work into gradually, in your spare time and from your home computer.

10 Responses to Why Skills are More Important than a Job

  1. Hi Kevin:

    Bottom line – you have to be OPEN to learning NEW stuff in order to keep yourself marketable. And be open to the adventure of seeing what is needed and making plans to meet those needs.

    Too many times folks go back to school without first paying attention to their location to see what is out there. Yes, there is a recession – but there are jobs out there. For example, in my location (Columbus, Georgia), if you have medical in your resume, come and get the job vacancies. I am very serious, the medical jobs are here and I wish I had some medical background. But guess what, I will figure out a way to do this. Right now I am concentrating on keeping the roof over our heads – but do plan on going back to school at age 52. I have been in office support all my life and life has changed = I have to change and figure out how to reinvent myself.

    I have been working at a local bakery (Lance Corporation)as a production worker for the last 3 weeks through a temp agency (Westaff). Again, if you need a job, visit Westaff – there are 3 shifts available and they pay $7.50 an hour with lots of overtime if you prove yourself. I am working the 11pm to 7am shift, dying from not being able to sleep – but hanging in there. Love the weekly paycheck 🙂

    Angela

    My website: Surviving Unemployment!
    http://survivingunemployment.weebly.com

  2. Hi Angela–Your point about reinventing yourself is so important. We can rail against the idea of doing it, and we don’t have to like it, but we do have to do it! It’s the world we live in so we have no other choice. I think that an underappreciated side of this is that we need to be doing it even when life is calm and seems to be going well. It’s about upgrading skills, but not just any skills. We need the skills that will make us most employable.

    Good for you on the overnite shift job. I’ve done that myself and I know what you mean about not being able to sleep. We underestimate how much noisier the world is during the day–sleeping is SO much harder. Not to mention feeling upside down by sleeping when everyone is up and being up when everyone else is sleeping. My hat is off to you for doing what you need to do.

  3. Thanks Kevin 🙂

    Getting the skills you need can be a challenge sometimes. I am still looking for ways to practice speaking Spanish and every Office Support job now seems to have the famous “bilingual” attached 🙂

  4. Hi Angela–Bilingual…that just seems to have so much potential on so many fronts! Of all the skills you could have I think that would be one of the best!

  5. Unfortunately the saying about many people applying, but just a few being hired, is still true these days. The recession is causing businesses across the glob to close their doors and never reopen them. Management problems have played a major role in this. Things don’t look so good when it comes to finding a job, but the outlook will be much brighter if you develop a good job interview skill set.

  6. Hi Joe–that’s true about good interview skill sets, but it will only work if you have the hands on job skills the employer is looking for. Most employers today are being extremely specific in the people they hire, which is why you can apply to 100s of companies and never get a job.

  7. Lately, job outsourcing has started to affect everything from information technology to customer service to accounting. In fact, anyone whose job does not require frequent face to face interaction is a possible target of this growing epidemic. Jobs involving low-skilled workers are not the only ones being affected anymore. Now, even high-skilled jobs such as those related to medical and engineering fields are being affected (High-skilled jobs in finance). It is expected that 200,000 more jobs will be outsourced every year for the next decade (Outsourcing’s long-term effects). What does this mean for the future of accounting?

  8. Wow, I am helping with a site that is all about the issue of “outsourcing” and if we all don’t get involved and keep our jobs local – even the “face to face” jobs will be gone. I have nothing against giving “illegals” a chance to earn an income – but I do have an issue when they are not contributing to the local taxes. I am so glad to see a lot of local governments are taking a stand and finally realizing – if this recession is going to go away – we ALL have to do our part and speak up and do something about it. Another site I am helping to promote gives some awesome information about what companies are “outsourcing”… Much needed information and a site I hope sticks around. If anyone wants information about these sites, you can contact me through my “How To Survive Unemployment” site. Have a blessed day everyone, Angela

    Website: Surviving Unemployment

  9. Thanks for weighing in with your comments. They’re very insightful especially since you work in a field where you’re in a position to know. I’ve heard this as well about the “higher end” jobs. There’s no room for complacency any more no matter what it is you do in your job or career. Any of us can be replaced, and for that reason alone we need to be ready to move on short notice.

  10. Hi Angela–I have no inside knowledge, but I have strong feeling that outsourcing will be the employment issue of the next decade at least.

Leave a reply