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No matter what kind of job you do, it is always a good idea to have a set of skills that will make you an invaluable employee

No matter what kind of job you do, it is always a good idea to have a set of skills that will make you an invaluable employee in today’s world of work. This will allow you to do certain tasks better than your colleagues and increase your worth as a team member.

“The transfer of learning is greatest if you are able to apply what you have learnt in your workplace. Seek to develop a skill that you can use and practise,” says Dr Heidi le Sueur, head: Accreditation & Assurance of Learning at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB).

The business school offers a regular talk series called Leader’s Angle where knowledge is shared and debate is encouraged. Masterclasses on topics such as leadership and economics are also offered to the USB student and alumni community.
“Academic skills and personal skills (eg practical skills, creative skills, etc.) are equally important. The more skills, the more opportunities and professional doors may open for you,” says Erika Revington, USB’s Acting Career Manager.

“Another important aspect related to this is interest. It’s easier to “upscale” yourself into something that interests you, but not so easy to grow your interest in something you are good or skilled but not interested in. Ideally you want as much interest as skill in what you do.”

Here are eight ways to acquire new knowledge to make yourself more valuable, as recommended by USB experts:

  1. ​​Ensure that you follow opinion formers on Twitter – like USB’s opinion leaders – to increase your exposure to new thinking.
  2. Write something to be critiqued. Martin Butler, head of the USB MBA and technology expert, says if you have an opinion about something, write it down and publish it on LinkedIn – the feedback is mostly constructive and helps to shape your thoughts.
  3. Learn a new language. Use a free product such as Duolingo by installing the app on your phone.
  4. Listen to podcasts that are freely available, such as those from Harvard Business Review: IdeaCast while driving to and from work. Podcasts stimulate your thinking and provide ideas for further learning.
  5. Dr Heidi le Sueur, head: Accreditation & Assurance of Learning at USB, suggests that you choose relevant literature, magazines or blog sites that provide you with the insights you are looking for. USB’s Thoughtprint site is a searchable repository for all the practical knowledge generated by USB’s faculty, stu dents, visiting lecturers, guest speakers and guest writers to make the practical research, opinion pieces, publications and speeches at USB more accessible.
  6. Identify people whom you admire for both their emotional and technical abilities. Observe them, reflect on their ways and learn from them. If you can, speak to them and listen carefully to what they say. Make this your own, but adapt – do not adopt.
  7. Ask honest feedback from others about what you d o and how you do it – especially peers and subordinates. Do not become defensive if you hear things you do not like. Instead, listen, think and change what needs to be changed.
  8. ​​Do not be afraid to experiment with new behaviours and approaches, even at the risk of making mistakes, says Prof Mias de Klerk, head of USB’s Postgraduate Diploma in Leadership Development. The only people who do not make mistakes are those who do nothing. But be wise – start experimenting on a small scale, and with those aspects that carry less risk should something go wrong. Ongoing learning is essential for both personal and professional growth. You can also sharpen your skills with one of USB’s 13 programmes or USB-ED’s short courses.​

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