Trying to decide between learning coding or not can be difficult. This decision could require you to pour hours of your day into coding courses and, chances are, a monetary investment as well.
So, if you do not want to spend the time and money learning to code, how do you build a successful career? How do you compete against those people who are master coders? The simple answer – differentiate yourself.
Sounds easy, right? There are hundreds of articles that say that you need to differentiate yourself, but how do you that? What skills do you focus on and where do you start?
Here are 9 skills that you should intentionally practice and refine, both in and out of your workspace. There is also a practical exercise with each skill so that you now have a place to start.
1. Negotiation and persuasion
Being able to negotiate and persuade people is a “must” in business. With contracts being formed, needing to hire top talent, and winning major deals (see Amazon’s latest deal), it is crucial that you can negotiate with people.
Practical exercise: Start negotiating and bartering for things. Go to farmer’s markets on weekends, travel international and barter, and start doing it everywhere you go. Yes, this is not “typical”, but it will help you learn principles and key techniques for when the big moment comes and you need to close that deal.
2. Leadership and management
Leadership and people management is one of the most desired characteristics when hiring individuals, but it is almost impossible to teach. You can read books all you want, but there is no substitute for actually getting into a leadership role and learning.
Practical exercise: Find a group to start, a non-profit to volunteer for, or any other place that will let you start something and do it. There are plenty of opportunities to lead chapters of organizations such as toastmasters.
3. Public speaking
It is one of the most common fears among people. So, if you can stand out by overcoming this fear, you will have more chances to get in front of key people and show yourself as an expert by presenting on different topics.
Practical exercise: Enroll in Toastmasters or another public speaking course. This will give you practical experience and will highlight mistakes and weaknesses that you wouldn’t see if you just practiced by looking into a mirror.
Time is an investment. You invest your time in what you prioritize and the implication is that you get a return for that investment. What are you investing your time in and what return are you getting for it? Are you spending your time learning new skills or watching movies?
Practical exercise: Assign yourself an hourly rate (tip: make it more than you are currently making) and begin to look at every task you do as an expenditure of your time and, therefore, an opportunity cost. For example, assume that you are going to go work out for an hour and your hourly rate is $50 per hour. Is your health, energy levels, mental strength, etc. that you get from working out a good investment of $50? I would say yes. On the other hand, if you are going to a movie, is eating popcorn (lowering your health) and losing out on the opportunity to spend with family/friends or learning a skill worth $50, I would say no. Obviously, there are exceptions, but use this as a basic framework.
5. Concise communication
It takes a smart person to communicate what they want without rambling. Short communication shows that you value others time and helps you to think before you speak.
Practical exercise: Be cognisant of your word choice. If you are rambling, stop it. Ask a friend to keep you accountable in this.
6. Habit building
There is a quote that says, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”. Take this to heart and realize that by building a habit, you are building your future.
Practical exercise: Write down what type of person you want to be in a year and then create a list of habits that help those areas of your life. For example, if you want to be a patient person, meditating could be one way that you build a habit to help this area of your life.
7. Intellectual curiosity
There is a common theme with leaders; they question where others assume. The founders of Warby Parker, a glasses startup, wondered why glasses cost too much and now they are worth more than a billion dollars.
Practical exercise: Be intentional about asking “why?”. At first, this will seem weird as you will question basic principles and you might come to the same conclusion that you already had. However, after time, it will start to pay off when you start to have insights on those “basic principles” that others miss.
8. Ability to fail
If you are not willing to fail, you will not be willing to learn. If you are not willing to learn, you will not grow. Failure is a passage to success. Yes, it is scary to fail, but you need to learn that failing shows that you are pushing yourself. Test your limits and this will pay off. Businesses need people who are willing to take calculated risks.
Practical exercise: Make a list of activities or conversations that scare you. Focus on areas/conversations that you are scared to pursue because you might mess up and embarrass yourself. Once you have this list, start doing them. This will be nerve racking, but will be good for you.
Do not let your lack of coding skills hold you back from advancing in your career. Learn the soft-skills that most people overlook or are too afraid to improve. If you take the risk, you will get the reward.
Differentiate yourself from the masses of people trying to get the same job. If you really want to rise above the rest, document your learnings. As you talk with your co-workers or a hiring manager, you will then be able to reference them. This shows that not only you are proactive, but that you are taking these lessons to heart.