The current generation has unprecedented access to information. If we want to learn a new skill, we can look up YouTube videos, or read WikiHow articles that will teach us whatever it is we want to know, whether that’s how to set a broken toe, or how to change a tyre. It’s always nice to be well rounded, and having a few basic survival skills will certainly not do us any harm, but it is all too easy to fall into the trap of becoming a jack of all trades.
If you want job security, it’s a good idea to pick something, and become awesome at it. You won’t get rich and famous by being a “decent” striker and a “fairly fast” runner, and most car mechanics don’t get pay rises by showing off their competent knowledge of household plumbing. When professionals invest in training, they do one of two things – expand their skill-set by learning related skills, or focus on getting even better at whatever it is they already do.
Making Your Skills Stand Out
Let’s take the car mechanic as an example. He started out changing tyres and doing tune-ups at the local garage while he studied for his NVQ. Once he passed his qualification, he started taking on more interesting jobs, performing MOT tests and fixing bigger problems with customer vehicles. After a while of doing those jobs, he decides that he’s ready for more responsibilities, and he decides to expand his skillset to include heavy vehicle repair. There are dozens of would-be car mechanics in the area, but the garage he works for does vehicle repair for local delivery companies, and few people have taken the time to get an NVQ in heavy vehicle maintenance and repair (after all, they only took Motor Vehicle Engineering at school so they could repair their own car for free), so he has secured his future with the company.
Staying In the Loop
It’s all too common for people to get complacent about their skills once they have a job. They learn the latest and greatest technologies while they’re looking for employment, but once they’re in receipt of a regular paycheque there’s no incentive to keep their skills out of date.
When these people lose their jobs, perhaps because the plant or shop they work for has closed down, they discover that their skills are out of date. Twenty years ago, knowing how to use a welding positioner may have been a big deal, but now every college has one, and it’s generally expected that if you want to work in a shop you’ll also know how to do stick welding, and how to use a seam welding machine. If you want to stand out from the crowd, and be considered “highly skilled”, then you need to be well versed in CAD/CAM, and know how to program a flowjet.
The best time to acquire those skills is while you already have a job. If you want to make sure that your skills are always in demand, then you should keep one eye on the job market, and make sure that you’re always learning. Ideally, your employer should pay for your training (after all, anything you learn will directly benefit your company), but if they refuse, pay for some of it yourself, and consider it a long term investment.
Post from Amy Fowler for Westermans, suppliers of welding equipment such as positioners and seam welding machines. Read more from Westermans by clicking here.