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Emma Sue Prince



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Survival Skills – should we be offering these?


Cooking? Yes, that’s a survival skill, if you want to eat economically, healthily and hopefully with some enjoyment. And I hope most young people do get to learn how to cook and look after themselves. What about other crucial skills that not only young people need, but all of us wherever we’re at in life? The under-taught skills, the ones that can make the difference between getting and keeping that job, relationship, opportunity, sense of humour, raw talent. The ones that help you to be successful and happy. At work and at play. Shouldn't these be included in training more explicitly?

1. Managing time - this is far more to do with managing ourselves, than time! If success depends on effective action, then that action is the ability to focus your attention where it’s needed most and not responding solely on how you feel in the moment. Many of us find this very challenging – we have multiple demands on our time and many distractions. And we are used to shifting our focus – flitting from Facebook to work project to text to web surfing in a matter of minutes. Being “busy” though, does not equal being productive and effective.

2. Communicating well - we are constantly trying to read other people’s minds and expecting them to read ours and know the unknowable! Give people the information they need, respond rather than react to everything, speak honestly and then give others a voice. Think about how you come across “virtually” too. Empathy is a key skill to nurture all relationships, both off and online. And the majority of all problems – family, friendship, work or anything else boil down to miscommunication.

3. Building relationships - we live in a world dominated by constant information exchange and daily innovation. Relationships create the channel through which ideas and information flow, and in which new ideas are shared, discussed and perfected. 

A large relationship network, carefully cultivated, can be leveraged to meet the right people, find jobs, build businesses, learn about new trends, spread ideas. Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn embodies this new, collaborative way of networking.

4. Projecting positivity - no, this is not about positive thinking! Research shows that although we think that we act because of the way we feel, in fact, we often feel because of the way we act.  A great attitude always leads to great experiences. And we’re going to need it! We need to get used to being disappointed and rejected. We need to know how to develop and keep a positive attitude no matter what life throws out. But even that is not enough – we need to generate and radiate good will and positive energy to maintain a competitive edge.

5. Writing well - something we have either forgotten how to do or weren’t taught this properly in the first place. Writing proficiently so that others can understand you is critical.  Also, using your writing skills to take useful notes is one of the most productive things you can do, regardless of the task at hand.  Writing things down – taking notes – helps us remember what we hear, see, or read when we’re learning something new, or trying to remember something specific.

6. Practicing mindfulness - we’re definitely not taught this one! Yet, mindfulness is taking on an increasing importance in the workplace and for many people. Why? Because mindfulness helps you manage stress, slow down, plan efficiently, make better and more informed decisions, increase productivity, think creatively and communicate with much more clarity.

7. Thinking critically - we are bombarded with vast amounts of rapidly changing information every single day. Being able to evaluate this information, sort the valuable from the trivial, analyse its relevance and meaning and relate it to other information is raw material for success today. Without an ability and awareness of thinking much more sharply, you will be left behind. Your attitude needs to be more open than ever now. You need to be able to challenge assumptions, we have to be able to look at things from different angles, think outside the box, collaborate with others, clarify goals and find solutions.

Food for thought?

The Advantage, a new book focusing on how we find, build and develop our inner resources to cope better in our changing world available online and at a bookshop near you on 7th March 2013.

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Emma Sue Prince


Read more from Emma Sue Prince

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