Value Line: Diversify Your Skills to Build Better Careers
For every skill you can have, there is a skill level that people will pay you for. Below you pay others for these actions – this is what I call the “value line.” So how has your career influenced this idea? A career is simply an area where you have carefully developed a skill to be well above the boundary of value. Learn new skills and you will find more opportunities to rise above the value line.
This post was originally published on The Simple Dollar .
My father has always been a jack of all trades . He was an absolute star gardener. He was a very good small commercial fisherman, able to catch hundreds of pounds of fish in one day. He did some pretty technical work in the factory, which, among other things, included working with a computer and diagnosing problems with a parts assembler (a machine that retrieved parts from storage bins and sent them along a conveyor belt to other parts of the factory). He could also fix many different things.
Some of his friends and family were even more proficient in these skills. He had friends – carpenters, plumbers, electricians and many others. He had friends who could hunt, forage, and find all kinds of valuable treasures just by walking in nature. They had weird little micro-businesses and they always seemed to be doing something different.
The fact is that I often could not understand, for the life of me, what some of his friends actually did for life. I suppose some of them were farmers and some of them worked in the same factory where he worked. Other? To this day, I’m still not sure what they did for a living. They seemed to be always working on a project or another, usually on things that seemed to make them happy, and they seemed to be able to put food on the table.
As I got older, I felt it necessary to go to college and build a career. I tended to view my father, and especially his friends, as an oddity in terms of their professional approach. I saw that they really didn’t have any clear-cut career path. They just did … things … and seemed to make ends meet.
So, I went to college. I’ve built a career. And, very soon, what did I find myself doing?
I built a side business. In the end, I gave up on this career and focused on the side business. I have also built several other side businesses and income streams .
How do I spend my day today? I work on a project, usually on something that makes me happy and I can put food on the table.
So what happened? What caused this transition? I attribute a significant shift to what I call the value line.
Value line in a nutshell
For every skill you might have in life, there is a skill level that people will pay you for. Below is the skill level at which you pay others to complete these activities. The line separating the two is what I call the “value line.” (It’s also worth noting that there is a gray area labeled “DIY” right around this value line.)
Here’s an example: plumbing. An experienced plumber is someone who can solve almost any domestic plumbing problem without any problems. Does water flood the basement? A plumber can figure out the problem and fix it. Obviously, an experienced plumber will be able to solve your home plumbing problems.
On the other hand, a person with little knowledge of plumbing often sees a problem with the plumbing and simply calls one of the experienced plumbers to fix the problem. This person is below the cost line when it comes to plumbing, while the experienced plumber they call is above the cost line when it comes to plumbing. An experienced plumber makes money from plumbing matters; a person without the skills of a locksmith spends money because of problems with the plumbing.
A similar example can be made from almost everything in life. Some people shoot popular YouTube videos while others watch them. Some people cook food that others are willing to pay for, while others order food at a restaurant. Someone changes the oil in cars for themselves and others, and someone goes to Jiffy-Luba. Some people fish hundreds of pounds of fish while others buy it from the grocery store or fish market.
People who make money in these situations are above the value line. People who spend money are below the value line.
Career and value line
So how does a career affect this idea? A career is simply an area where you have carefully crafted a skill or small set of skills to be well above the value boundary for people to pay you for that skill.
For example, my early career was in the computer analysis of research data. It took me some very polished skills – some computer programming, the ability to understand data, and a few more things. In these areas, I was well above the line of values, and therefore I was able to be an excellent candidate for a job that used these skills.
But here’s the thing. In many career paths, you don’t need to be much above the value line to make decent money, and only people far beyond that value line make a lot of money.
The fact that I was even above the line of values in these skills at the same time made me valuable to the people who hired me. I was (and still am) far from the best programmer in the world. I was (and still am) far from being a true expert in the areas of research I needed to understand. However, I knew enough to understand what large datasets meant, how to organize them, and how to help other people use these large datasets to answer questions they might (reasonably) intuitively have.
I had a few skills that were somewhat honed, but not world class, but these skills were enough to become the foundation of a career.
This is true for almost any professional path. Almost every career path consists of a fairly large number of similar skills that a person has honed. They stand out from this set of professions, further honing those skills.
Now, within this career area, sharpening these key skills more and more is a great strategy. The more certifications you get, the better. The more projects you complete, the better. The more professional skills you list on your resume, the better.
Variety of skills
However, for every other area in the world, this is not the best strategy. For example, a construction firm is not going to hire a systems analyst. A manufacturing firm will not care about your skills if they are not manufacturing related.
This factor, along with the idea that you don’t have to go too far above the value line in order to make money in the field, points to a very different income-generating strategy in your life. Instead of putting all your eggs in one career basket, learn many different skills that you can use to make money in a wide variety of situations.
You are no longer tied to the same job because you have a wide range of skills that will help you find work in a range of fields. You have countless opportunities to start side jobs or freelance for a bit to earn extra income. You are also ready to move on to a completely different career if the wind blows that way.
Not only that, you become the best asset in your current career path, especially if your skills are secondary along the way. Almost any career can involve people with skills in public speaking, presentation, project management, and organization. Many, many other skills come up over and over again in their careers, making the people who have them more valuable to their employer and only slightly more in demand along their career path.
The more skills you have above the value line, the better.
Five strategies for developing skills and finding a value line
How can this knowledge be used? How can you effectively develop skills that exceed this so-called “value line” while continuing to work on your current career and enjoying life? Here are five strategies I use to develop values skills in my busy life.
Strategy # 1: Make Time for Learning Every Day
Every single day, you should spend some time learning something significant that will help you develop a real skill that you would like to learn. A good day is the day you know something when you go to bed that you didn’t know when you woke up.
Of course, for this to make sense, you must identify at least one skill that you are actively trying to develop (you may be trying to develop several at once). Thus, whatever you choose, whatever you learn on that day, it is consistent with this skill.
You may be able to gain this knowledge by reading a chapter in a book, watching a YouTube video, browsing a website, or even using an application like Duolingo . The key is to bite off a large enough chunk so that you feel like you are actually acquiring real knowledge that you did not have the day before.
Let me give you a couple of examples of what I mean.
Let’s say I’m trying to learn Spanish, which is a great example of the type of skill that can be learned. Foreign language proficiency is an excellent example of the “above the line of values” skill.
For language learning, I cannot recommend Duolingo enough as it breaks down language learning into multiple lessons that challenge you with both reading and writing, speaking and matching words to pictures, so you learn the language in many ways. For me, getting a new idea or set of ideas would mean working on a group of lessons for half an hour or so.
Another example is learning to play the guitar . There are many good video series on YouTube that teach you how to play guitar, or you can pay for the lessons in person or via Skype. For me, the key would be completing the full lesson and doing the exercises to add something new to what I’ve learned and reinforce old things.
Strategy # 2: Spend Time Each Day Applying What You’ve Learned
However, it is not enough to simply learn something new in a complete vacuum. You need to constantly apply the knowledge gained in real (or approximately real) problems. It is the ability to apply one’s knowledge to things that others find useful that develops the true “above the line of values” skill.
For example, after a Spanish lesson, I might try reading and translating a simple Spanish document to test my skills. Can I use these new skills in the context of a simple translation with the training wheels off? During my guitar lesson, I could try to play the song using a chord or fingering technique that I learned today working on this song several times until it feels good.
This whole strategy works for just about any skill you are trying to master. Learn something new about this skill every day, and then apply this new thing you’ve learned along with what you’ve already learned to do something practical with it.
Strategy # 3: Focus on Project-Oriented Things
At first, applying what you’ve learned will boil down to really simple things. It is very difficult to place your first rough steps in skill training in any broader context.
However, as soon as possible, you should start applying the knowledge gained to a larger project.
For example, instead of just working on the opening riff of a song on the guitar, start focusing on mastering the entire song as early as possible. Instead of just picking up a few random words in a language, work on translating something from that language into your own, or vice versa. Instead of just writing “Hello world!” computer program, work on writing a program that is useful to you.
There are two reasons for this. First, having something to work on makes the “apply” strategy (# 2, above) clearer and more obvious. Second, if you are working on a project, you will end up creating something really compelling and interesting. You take steps towards this every time you work on it.
Strategy # 4: Complete, Complete, Complete
Regardless of what skills you choose to develop and what projects you decide to take on, don’t just leave them in a partially completed heap and move on. If you decide to take on a project, bring it to completion .
Why? People quit for two reasons. First, the project turned out to be more difficult than they thought. This is a great reason to keep working as it gives you the opportunity to work on improving your skills.
Second, they feel that their skills and time are better used elsewhere. In this case, if you continue the project and see it through to completion, you will learn the fine art of perseverance, which is one of the most powerful personal skills a person can possess. Being able to stick to something and follow through is an invaluable skill.
Not only that, these are already completed projects that you really want to improve and share with others.
Strategy # 5: Sell and Share What You Do
It may not be the best idea for the very first (or second) product you create with your beginner skills, but you should move on to trading and selling what you make as soon as possible.
Let’s say you decide to shoot informative videos on a topic that interests you. This allows you to explore your video production skills as well as explore the topic of your interest deeper. Instead of just shooting videos and hoping someone buys them, post them to YouTube as soon as you have a video that isn’t a complete disaster. It doesn’t even have to be good in your eyes if it conveys a message.
Don’t be afraid to share your skills before they get razor sharp, because for the self-critical person, their own skills will never be razor sharp. I still do n’t think I’m all that much more of a writer (I think the talent I’m writing is okay stuff in a large volume), but I decided to just start putting it anyway with a few ads attached to make a few dollars. Start offering your skills and products of your skills sooner rather than later . You will be glad you did.
Golden mean: do it yourself
If your reaction to this is that it sounds good, but it’s an unsafe professional leap, I totally agree. This is an unsafe professional jump.
Instead, the value it gives you is that you no longer need to hire skilled professionals to handle many of the ordinary things in your life – or at least not so often.
If you are working on developing your plumbing skills, you can fix your home plumbing situation. You can replace the faucet or fix a leaking sink.
If you’re working on developing your electrical skills, you can do things like install an electrical outlet or ceiling fan without worry.
If you are working on developing your culinary skills, then in most cases eating out becomes a significantly less interesting option. Believe me, I’d rather cook my own food at home than eat outside, because it tastes better at home.
Not only that with such a variety of skills, you will often come across the opportunity to use them to make a few dollars. Someone might pay you $ 40 to repair a toilet or have their car inspected. You can write a book in your spare time and make $ 20 a month if the finished book is stored in the Kindle store. These things don’t change lives, but they can really make a difference for the better.
If there is one important message to draw from this, it is this: You can create more financial stability and many financial opportunities in your life by developing a variety of skills in your spare time.
Having a large number of skills broadens your horizons in terms of what you can do for a living. It can save you a lot of money in your daily life. It can also open doors for third-party businesses, which I have learned from my own experience can sometimes grow much larger than you expect.
When you’re bored or have some free time, devote that time to learning a new skill or hone an old one. Read about it or watch the video, then take the time to test this skill by solving real-life problems with the skill. Not only will you develop a skill, but you will create something useful for yourself along the way, and the more you hone your various skills, the better your results will be.
Soon, you may just be wasting your days working on a project, usually what makes you happy, and you can set the table along the way. The source of all this is having a healthy skill set above the value line.
Good luck in exceeding the “value line” as many times as possible.
Value Line: Developing Skills for a Better Life | Simple dollar