You can’t make it far in your career without a set of skills that make you valuable to an employer. To stand out from the crowd, however, be sure to also learn some skills that may not be taught in the curriculum everyone else is following.
Photo by Don DeBold
As Mandalay Entertainment CEO John Guber explains, a useful employee offers more than just checking off a standard set of boxes. Everyone around you is trying to hit the same notes, after all. If you want to be someone who can advance quickly, however, try to have more than just the average range of skills:
I realised early on how important music was to film and television’s success. In particular, I gleaned how the audience’s emotion was as much dependent on the musical palette as it was on the dialogue. I also saw how critical it was to connect filmmakers (who really didn’t understand music) to music professionals, and the music people (who really didn’t understand film) to filmmakers. I decided that even though music wasn’t in my DNA, and that hybrid music/film organisations were a rarity, I had to broaden my existing skillset to navigate my medium’s future.
I didn’t know the music language. I didn’t know the people. I didn’t know the technology. But, I knew I had to know. I steeped myself in the process, took a big gamble, and merged my entire young movie company, Casablanca Filmworks, with a music company to create Casablanca Record and Filmworks, and then later, Polygram. By developing this unconventional skillset, it allowed our organisations to be at the forefront of such Academy Award-nominated and financially successful scores and albums like Midnight Express, Flashdance, Gorillas in the Mist, Rain Man and Batman.
Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should take up underwater basket weaving as a minor. However, many jobs require (or would at least like) a variety of skills. If you’re working in television on a build crew, learning how to make crafts or costumes can be a benefit. If you work corporate sales, learning visual design can give you a big boost.
Completely esoteric skills may not all be relevant to your job, but there are certainly a dozen or more skill sets that your contemporaries don’t have that you can learn. Even if it turns out it’s not relevant to your work, learning something new is good for your brain.