Why Not Learn New Skills for Life & Career Satisfaction?

I am not a parent myself, but I believe this friend’s story demonstrates some very good parenting:

She was on a March break holiday with her young son and feeling a bit stressed that her parents had paid for ski lessons for him and he really wasn’t enjoying them at all. Riding up the lift together she said, “Remember when you started swimming and you didn’t like it and you weren’t very good at it.”

“Yes,” he said.

“And how do you like swimming now?”

“I love swimming!”

“So maybe if you try a few more skiing lessons, you’ll get better at it and find you like skiing.”

Very wise, I think. Getting good at a new skill takes time and practice. How many times as adults do we give into discomfort and stop learning a new skill when persevering might pay off? Or we think: “That’s just not me. I’m not good at asserting myself/networking/cooking/drawing” when we really haven’t put the effort in to see if we could learn.

I believe time and energy invested in life and career skills – such as communication, managing challenging emotions, or cultivating good relationships — is time and energy very well spent. And in addition to the direct rewards of using those new skills when you need them, you gain confidence by learning again that you can learn! We can all grow and change for the better and through learning we benefit from others’ experience and knowledge about how to make our way through these messy but often rewarding journeys of life and work.

Here are 4 books as potential starting points to learn new life and career skills:

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-9-55-28-amMindset, by Carol S. Dweck – This is a good one for the top of this list because this book’s overall message is that “we can learn to fulfill our potential”. Carol Dweck provides some research to show that the view you have of yourself profoundly affects how you lead your life: what you notice, what conclusions you draw, and what actions you take. Her book sets out a “growth mindset” of learning and change as contrasted to a “fixed mindset” of limited potential and little change. Seeing yourself through a growth mindset can open up all kinds of opportunities for learning and positive change.

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, by Susan Jeffers – So many people use the title of this book as a motivational phrase and I wonder if most of them know it’s a book! First released in 1987, this best seller has been published in least 20 editions. Written in a very down to earth, approachable style, Susan Jeffers validates our fear of change and challenge and offers exercises and explanations to help us take bold steps and smart, thoughtful risks knowing we will be ok.

Dealing with Difficult People, by Roberta Cava – This one is a bit of a classic too; first published in 1999 with multiple editions. The introductory chapters give a helpful introduction to human behaviour and basic communication skills. After a chapter about dealing with manipulators (why don’t they teach this in high school?!), the rest of the book focuses on the workplace: dealing with clients/customers, co-workers, co-workers, and subordinates.

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-9-56-01-amNetworking for People Who Hate Networking, by Devora Zack – This is one of my favourite career skills books. I particularly like the subtitle: “A field guide for introverts, the overwhelmed, and the underconnected.” I really enjoy networking now and really didn’t like it at all early in my career. (I’m an introvert and early in my career was definitely underconnected and often overwhelmed.) Approaching networking as the skill of building relationships and establishing rapport really helped me rethink how I was reaching out. Zack does a wonderful job in this book of showing how you can connect with people in your own style – you don’t have to learn to be an extrovert and can use your strengths and build on them as you practice new skills. She gives practical tips and examples.

What books have helped you learn skills for challenging times in your life or career? Please share the titles in the comments below!

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