Economics tells us that the more rare something is, the higher its value. This makes sense. Diamonds are hard to obtain and relatively few in number. This increases their value. Sturgeon Caviar is difficult to obtain and very rare, hence the high price. The fact it is horrible is irrelevant (I cite other people as a source for this, Caviar isn’t available in Aldi…), but the point is that rarity increases the value of anything.
The same can be said for skills. The best paid people in the world have rare skills. This results in their high demand. In order to develop a well paid career with control over your own destiny, you have to cultivate rare, in-demand skills that employers are seeking.
For students, there are hundreds and thousands of people with the same academic credentials, all clamouring for the same vacancies. Our friend economics also states that when there’s an oversupply of commodity, price decreases. For students, this means lower wages. Where the degree was once a differentiator it now becomes the norm. A PhD is the mark of academic differentiation now. Top grades at A Level have increased in prevalence, making their value decrease. That’s not to say an A grade is not a fantastic achievement – it’s merely economics. The higher the supply, the lower the value.
How can a student stand out? How can they increase their own value so they aren’t competing with the mainstream? Fortunately, there are a number of skills a student can acquire, with a little effort over and above their course, that will set them apart from the rest. The best thing about these points? Only a small percentage will take action and actually make the effort to develop these skills. You can be sure if you’re one of the few who do, your skills will remain rare.
The word “sales” makes people’s skin crawl. It conjures up an image of a man in a bad suit bullying somebody to buy what they don’t want for a price they can’t afford. In reality, sales is highly skilled and more akin to teaching than bullying. In the internet economy, sales people have to be educators. They have to possess the ability to listen to their prospects’ problems, and solve them with the product they are offering. Sales is about building a relationship.
Selling is an uncommon skill. Most people have the attitude to run a mile, but in order to be successful, you HAVE to become a salesperson. The best scientists sell their ideas, the best managers sell their ethos and way of doing business and the best employees sell their skills to their employer.
Also, sales in the truest sense of the word is the single most high power activity in a business. Sales people make the money. Businesses need money and will pay a premium for the people who can achieve this feat.
In order to learn sales, I recommend getting started with talks by Steli Efti on YouTube or the book “Predictable Revenue” by Aaron Ross.
The world’s economy is becoming smaller. The UK exports total 30% of our GDP. The UK is second bottom of the league of countries whose population can speak at least one additional language. That makes the skill rare. Acquiring a second language can make you extremely useful to any business who trades internationally, which is 15% of businesses in the UK. The ability to converse with foreign businesses in their native tongues can be an invaluable sales tool, customer service tool and can lead to you becoming a revenue generator for that business. As we’ve learnt in the point above, if you can generate revenue for a business, you instantly become valuable.
Learning a foreign language can be done as part of your explicit course of study, but can also be done on your own. There are some wonderful resources available that makes studying a language really easy. I recommend: –
- Michel Thomas audio courses
- Brainscape app for vocabulary acquisition
- Podcasts in your target language for listening
- iTalki for arranging conversations in your target language.
It goes without saying that you need to know how to use a computer in this day and age. The good ol’ computer is all pervasive and is the tool of choice for the knowledge worker. Even practical businesses like plumbers and electricians need to use a computer to keep expenses, manage accounts and even use Google!
Computer programming takes IT literacy one step further. By understanding the basic tenets of computer programming, you equip yourself with the power to manipulate technology to a multitude of new tasks. Computer programming could help you get functionality out of Excel you didn’t think possible. Marketers can contribute to their company’s efforts by building tools for potential customers to use, manipulating the blog to capture more user details or linking your site with social media tools. Getting to grips with mobile development will enable you to build all sorts of tools that could augment your daily life, solving little problems that will increase your productivity and effectiveness. Also, you may even produce the next Instagram.
Companies bemoan a dearth of computer programmers. The skill is rare, and people who can both computer programme and contribute to other areas like sales and marketing are rarer still. What’s even better, you can achieve a good degree of proficiency by using tutorials and resources available online. Here are a few to get you started: –
- Treehouse – provides video courses for various different programming languages including Ruby, PHP, Python and iOS and Android development
- Codecademy – provides online courses that allow you to learn by completing coding tasks. Good to get to grips with the syntax
- Railscasts – teaches Ruby on Rails; a common web development framework for building web applications like Twitter, Facebook etc
The single most effective technique for learning to programme? Start a project and use the resources to point you in the right direction for solving the challenges you face. For instance, you might want to make a Twitter mock. By answering the questions ‘how do I build a login?’, ‘how can I create a status?’ and ‘how can I build in following?’ will help you to get to grips with development and learn the languages in the context of a project.
You may read this section, compare it to the quality of my writing, and laugh at the irony, but writing well is a rare and valued skill. In an economy where the vast majority of our communication is done online via email, social media or on a blog, the ability to write well is more important than ever. For businesses who want to get their message heard, the written word is increasingly becoming the tool of choice. By developing your ability to write well, you are providing any employer with an instant benefit. The way you represent an organisation will be of higher quality and people will respect your opinion on things. The quality of your writing provides an instant indication to your levels of intelligence, rightly or wrongly.
There are a few good books on how to write effectively. Stephen King’s “On Writing” is a fantastic guide in style, structure and empathising with your reader. William Struink’s “Elements of Style” provides a good grounding in grammar, as well as how to structure extended pieces of writing. You may be able to tell it has been a while since I read either. Spelling and grammar mistakes on the back of a postcard.
Rarity creates value. Students compete with a vast array of other, similarly-qualified, students. Making yourself rare and valuable is the only way to stand out from the crowd. By seeking rare and valuable skills, then learning them ruthlessly, you will increase your value to employers, and thus your job prospects, exponentially. Entrepreneurs realise that value is created by focussing on what you can offer other people. By taking that attitude and diligently enabling yourself to offer more to an employer, success will be yours.
Are there any more easily acquired skills that you could learn that are rare and valuable? What are they? Comment below.