Career Mobility: The Skills We Need

The takeaway from our previous article on career mobility was about how it is relevant to everyone’s career today. And that the best thing we can do is to prepare for career mobility. We need to look at this preparation as an investment in our careers. In this article we elaborate on the skills involved in career mobility.

There are three basic skills needed for career mobility:

  1. investing time and energy in building a strong network before we need help,
  2. building on transferable skills that will enable us to be agile when needed, and
  3. becoming financially literate and building financial stability

Career mobility skill #1: Build a network

Pieces of chess shown with 7 red pieces standing against one piece of black. The image indicates career moves.
Pieces of chess shown with 7 red pieces standing against one piece of black. The image indicates career moves.

So many of us, even in today’s highly digital and connected world, do not make use of simple tools and strategies available to us for networking. The statements below are common opinions:

  • “Networking? No need. I don’t need anything right now. Why bother?”
  • “I hate meeting new people!”
  • “I am shy, and I don’t know what to talk about.”

Have you ever thought similarly, that networking isn’t for you?

Focus on nurturing past and existing connections

Image depicting a network of people. Networking is a key career skill.
Image depicting a network of people. Networking is a key career skill.

This could be at work or where we were studying. It could be our bosses, colleagues, customers, and classmates. These are the people who know us best. They have communicated with us, worked with us, and know our strengths and weaknesses. They are the best advocates for who we truly are.

As long as we have been professional, courteous, and supportive, why should we discard all those strong relationships? This is the precious relationship capital that we’ve built over time.

It’s understandable that we all get busy in life. But keeping in touch, investing time and effort to check in on them (maybe once a month or quarter) for their wellbeing and to provide any support that we can offer, is what networking really means.

There’s no point attending conferences and building new relationships if we can’t maintain our existing ones.

Unless our approach to our careers involves transactional relationships (i.e., based purely on need and exchange), doing this should be much easier for all of us. All it takes is some time and effort.

What networking certainly does not involve is connecting and asking for a favour the first time that we interact with someone.

Invest in people and relationships: Gain in the long run

For every single one of my jobs starting from the third year of my career, it was my network that has helped me navigate my professional journey. It is only because they are so invested in me, that this was possible. I went from casinos to events to media and who knows what next? And remember, this goes both ways; I have had the opportunity to invest back into my network as well. Whether it’s business leads, partnerships, potential job openings, mentoring, introductions or simply to check on them personally every once in a while.

When we invest in our network long-term, they become invested in our success as well. So when it comes to career mobility, your network is vital.

Authenticity

(We are building deeper content on ‘networking’ soon. It will cover growing a network and other networking strategies when it is released. Subscribe to Lokyatha to get updates when that comes out.)

Career mobility skill #2: Build transferable skills

But individuals who have enabled major transformations and created a dent in a particular space were often outsiders to that industry.

They simply looked at things in a fresh or different way because they were not anchored by history and experience. Sounds hard to believe? Search online for ‘Outsider CEO’ whenever possible.

Image showing the outline of a person's face having a lightbulb moment. The face is surrounded by speech bubbles to indicate different perspectives being shared.
Image showing the outline of a person's face having a lightbulb moment. The face is surrounded by speech bubbles to indicate different perspectives being shared.

This is definitely not a sure-shot 100% strategy for CEOs, but the idea behind it is important to acknowledge. Also, it does not only apply for people at the CEO level; even junior-level employees can look at things with fresh perspectives.

(Note: This is another reason to push for diversity in the workplace. We will talk about that some other time.)

We don’t mean to imply that we should ignore industry veterans. Not at all! Simply measuring the value of the vast network and relationships across customers, vendors, and regulators they have built over time is enough to justify that.

Transferable skills are the icing on our career cake

These skills are called transferable skills. They are skills that can be transferred to another situation or context. Sometimes people call them ‘portable skills’. But we should think of them as our toolkit for both our personal lives and our careers, and especially for career mobility.

Image of different tools needed for construction work. This is an analogy for the toolbox we need for our careers in terms of skills.
Image of different tools needed for construction work. This is an analogy for the toolbox we need for our careers in terms of skills.

Unfortunately, almost none of these skills are taught to us in any academic setting to prepare us for the real world.

Some of these transferable skills include sales, negotiation, written and verbal communication, public speaking, relationship building, commitment and reliability, leadership, project management, customer service, organization, time management, teamwork, and research skills.

This list could go on, but we hope we’ve made our point.

Carry them wherever you go; for life…

Imagine a candidate who has the best academic track record and deep technical knowledge. But what use is all that if they are not good at working in a team? Or if they have poor communication skills? Can you predict how well they will do in their careers?

Image of a Rolls Royce car engine and then the car itself.
Image of a Rolls Royce car engine and then the car itself.

At Lokyatha we have the cheat codes of life, but we certainly won’t pretend to know anything about cars. This image above is of a Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Water Speed. Look at that shiny, beautiful engine! But without those wheels, its top speed is zero!

Technical skills may be the engine that push us ahead, but transferable skills are the wheels that take us places.

Career mobility skill #3: Financial literacy

As mentioned earlier, our careers may not always involve taking a step towards greater income. Once in a while, we may need to take a step down or sideways. This could result in a lower income. In case we lose a job or desire to take a break or start a business, our income may drop down to zero.

Image shows the words 'Financial Literacy' written on a notebook kept on a desk. Financial literacy is a key skill for career mobility.
Image shows the words 'Financial Literacy' written on a notebook kept on a desk. Financial literacy is a key skill for career mobility.

Being financially prepared with tactics and tools such as building an emergency fund, acquiring the right insurance, managing our budgets, long-term financial obligations, and our ongoing cash flow is critical to navigating such situations.

(We have an extended content series on financial literacy that is available here if interested.)

Conclusion

Starting to work on the skills involved in career mobility at any stage of our careers is a good decision, as most of them take time and thought.

Lokyatha is an education focused initiative to enable young adults to live better, more fruitful lives by delivering real world life skills.

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