Podcast

Episode: 246 |
Will Bachman:
Investing in Skills:
Episode
246

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Will Bachman

Investing in Skills

Show Notes

When you have time between projects, here are some ideas on which skills you might want to spend time investing in.

Also, some tips on resources to use.

Suggestions include:

  1. Writing
  2. Slides
  3. Data science and programming
  4. Data visualization
  5. Software for creative professionals
  6. Core business skills
  7. Excel, PowerPoint, Google Suite
  8. Social media
  9. Google Search
  10. Liberal arts, science, engineering
  11. Industry-specific topics
  12. Drawing
  13. Economics
  14. Foreign language

Suggested resources include

LinkedIn Learning

Udacity

edx.org

Cognitive Class

Coursera

Iversity

Youtube

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman 00:01
Welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. Unleashed is produced by Umbrex, which connects you with the world’s top independent management consultants. I’m your host Will Bachman. From time to time, an independent consultant is going to have a project get delayed or cancelled the last minute, and then we have some time before the next one comes along. So how can we make productive use of this time? In Episode 238, I shared 17 ideas for setting up technology to enhance your practice. In Episode 239, I discussed 14 ideas for creating or enhancing marketing material. In this episode, I’ll share ideas for investing in your skills. First, I’m going to share two paradigms for thinking about skills. paradigm number one is a T shaped profile, where you’re really deep on one thing, that’s the vertical part of your tea. And then you have some knowledge on a lot of different things. That can be a good profile for becoming a trusted advisor. To get started as a advisor, you need to be deepened something to get hired. But then to get taken seriously and advise more senior executives, it helps to know enough about a broad range of topics. So if your world expert on supply chain, you can advise the VP of operations on supply chain matters. But to advise the CEO it also helps Devon understand how to manage the balance sheet crisis management at a lobby the government HR employee engagement, communicating with the board, etc. So for that kind of profile, you’d want to know something about all those areas. paradigm number two is becoming a double or a triple threat. That’s where you have two or even three areas of depth. That’s a useful profile for a lot of projects that really need two different skills. There’s only space or funds for one person. For example, a common combo, I see as the client wants someone trained as a consultant, who can also do data science. A lot of data scientists may not have the consultants toolkit, and a lot of consultants can play around in Excel, but they can’t do real data science. So if you can master both, you can command a premium for those types of projects. Another example of a double threat would be someone with consulting skills, who also knows video production end to end, video will become more and more important in consulting, I believe. And in progress reviews, for example, don’t just include a few killer quotes. But imagine showing a video with customers speaking, tightly edited, could be far more powerful. as a consultant, you don’t have to be the one behind the camera or doing the editing in Adobe Premiere. But if you understand the whole video process, you’ll be able to imagine and communicate the outcome you want, and effectively manage a video production crew. So here’s a long list of ideas for skill building. And you know, where you can choose from some of the ideas and where you might want to focus. Number one is writing, we can all improve our writing skills. A good method is to write every day and write for public consumption. You might want to write a daily blog post, write a daily post on LinkedIn, write every day and then compile the best for a weekly newsletter. Or another idea would be to respond to hero requests every day. Hero h AR O stands for help a reporter out. It’s a website where you pay you get on the mailing list, you receive an email every morning every noon and late afternoon. So around six in the morning, 12 noon, Eastern 6pm. Eastern. In the business version, there’s usually about 30 separate requests on each email from reporters. Each request will have a query from a reporter, a deadline and a nominalized, an anonymized email address for your response. And sometimes they give the name of the reporter and the publication sometimes not. But if you respond to a hair request every day, you’re getting some writing experience, and it might raise your visibility at the same time. And if your responses don’t get published, they’re not wasted. If you save those responses, you could end up publishing them as a blog post. Anyway. Okay, number two slides. I think I make pretty decent slides. If I’m honest with myself, though, I have to say I have a lot of room for improvement. This is what I do if I wanted to get better at making slides and I was willing to make that the priority and use the Benjamin Franklin method. He improved his writing skills by taking articles that he read, reading them carefully. And then without looking at the original trying to rewrite the piece. He talks about this in his autobiography. Sometimes he found that his version was even better than the original. So apply that same method to a really well done slide deck. If you Google you can find examples of McKinsey documents. For example that have made their way into the public domain, take one of those, study all the facts and figures take notes on the data that you need, and the quotes and the numbers but but don’t draw the figures. And then without looking at the original deck, maybe the next day, see if you can recreate the individual pages and the whole document. An alternate approach would be to look through every slide deck that you can find and create your own library of PowerPoint template pages. I think that’d be a very valuable exercise. Alright, talk about writing talked about slides. Number three, data science and programming, it’s only going to become more important to consulting my way to think about Python are alteryx other types of data science and there’s a lot of online courses available for that data visualization. Tableau has become as a very good courses on their website. The software is not cheap, and something I think on the order of $1,000. Last time I checked for a subscription to Tableau for but it’s becoming more and more important, the courses are free on their website. If you’re going to start it takes one or two weeks of solid study to start getting even intermediate level skills. So it does require a bit of investment to get up to speed on tableau. But it’s quite quite powerful tool. Number five, software for creative professionals. You might think about learning software for audio editing, graphic design, user experience, video, web design, WordPress, HTML, Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, all these programs, there’s a lot of free courses out there on how to get smart on those programs. Number six core business skills. So this could include business analysis, if your modeling skills are a bit rusty bootup xo, and find an online business analysis course, or finance, obviously, that’s a massive field unto itself, with lots of subtopics consider focusing on something specific, such as how to model a carve out or how to model the synergies from a post merger integration, or how to do valuation. You could study accounting or or refresh yourself, marketing, obviously massive topic evolving rapidly changing every year, there’s a big demand these days in the area of performance marketing, that is measurable digital marketing. So that’s one area you might want to look at project management. Okay, number seven, just core software. If you aren’t a true ninja on Excel and PowerPoint, invest 20 hours and sharpen your skills. When I was a business analyst at McKinsey, I spent an entire weekend and I learned every single function in Excel, I actually used every single one of them in a formula, some I have never used since all those trigonometry functions never seem to come up very much in my world. But that weekend has saved me countless hours. Since then, I’ve had a huge return on investment on that one weekend. Also, you want to master pivot tables. It really shocks me when I meet a business professional who doesn’t know pivot tables, learn to make charts in Excel on PowerPoint, look at getting either a mecco graphics or think cell plugin. They definitely give you PowerPoint superpowers. And it takes a little bit of effort to learn how to use things sell or mecco graphics. So when you’re not on a project and in demand, now’s the time to invest in that. Definitely, if you’re not really familiar with Google suite of products, Google Sheets, Google Doc Google Slides, that’s one to master not much different really than using Excel and PowerPoint. Just a few differences. So it’s worth spending some time if you haven’t used those extensively before. Social media. Number eight, LinkedIn, within social media, learn what a really good profile looks like. Learn how to post on LinkedIn in a way that generates engagement. Learn how to learn how to use Twitter. So Twitter can be a massive time suck. It can also be a way to find out information very, very efficiently. So learn how to use Twitter as a tool as opposed to purely a distraction device. Number nine, Google search. So do you just search for a term? Or do you know all of the advanced features, I’ve got a link in the show notes with 42 different advanced search operators. So there’s a lot of Google search that I’m sure that I don’t take advantage of limiting search by time or by source or having the words within four words of each other, that kind of thing. So look at ways to get more powerful just learning how to search and number 10. On the more academic side of things, check out eds.org and just browse the offerings. It is so inspirational. They’ve got over 4000 courses. They’re free. It’s everything from the history of epidemics, timely enough and out to game design to sustainable food security. There’s 10 different courses on Shakespeare, amazing set of offerings, to reignite some interest in some more specific topic. Number 11. industry specific. So learn something specific to your industry. One idea picked at random pharmaceutical quality insurance, I just googled that and found a page reviewing five different courses on the topic, ranging anywhere from $295 to $1,000. A lot of learning online is free. I mean, this specific one is paid for you get a certificate, that’s an example of learning something that might really be relevant in your industry. Number 12. An idea would be learn to draw. If you haven’t done that for a while, or maybe you never really got started. It’s number one, it’s meditative. And it could also be a really cool skill and consulting. I just can only draw stick figures. But the ability to sketch a product idea or a factory layout would be useful on so many different products projects. Number 13. Economics, there’s 900 videos, high production value at Marginal Revolution, university, by professors high production value, amazing resource. Number 14. Learn or fresh in your skills in a foreign language. The pandemic reminds us that our fates are bound together. Let’s make sure we can speak to one another. There are a lot of resources do this from home. Duolingo, of course, is a fun app, and the gamification the daily streaks help you keep at it. In my experience, Duolingo can be one element of a language learning program. But if it’s all you do, you lose what you learn pretty quickly after you stop using the app. So think about complementing that with some other options. There’s the news in slow Spanish, which is a an app, it’s great. They read to you in the news in slow Spanish. And on their app, you can see the text that they’re reading as they read it. And there’s a lot of words where you can click on the keyword and you can see the English translation. So you can listen to it multiple times you can hear someone reading it slow, you can see the word the reading, you can translate the difficult words, and you can listen multiple times. So it’s a great tool to help your listening comprehension, as well as to hear some news articles that are curated and interesting give you perspective on what’s going on in either Spain or Latin America. And you really you can start right away, you don’t need to get to an advanced level intermediate level, you can really start pretty much as a beginner I found and it’s a great compliment to something like Duolingo. The same company also has news and slow French news and slow German news. And so Italian is in slow Japanese, and news in slow English. Another idea would be to read a foreign language newspaper online. So find out the newspapers in Paris, Buenos Aires, Mexico, Rome, Berlin, Madrid, I know what they’re writing about the pandemic. Even with no grammar training, you can start pretty early, you can look up each word individual in an online dictionary. And you can even run the whole article through Google Translate and see a pretty good translation of it, and then work to figure out the original. Another idea would be to read a book in the language, even starting as a relative beginner. That’s the primary way that I built up my vocabulary in Spanish. I was a little insane. I read CNN, yo Cecily Dodd by Gabrielle Garcia Marquez, starting when I had a pretty basic level of Spanish. And as I read each page, I circled every word that I didn’t know. And then I looked up every one of those words in a dictionary. In a notebook, I wrote each Spanish word and it’s English translation. In the beginning, more than half the words on each page were circled. But by the end of the book, I could read it with near fluency. It took me a couple months to do that project. But now we have some time on our hands. You can also find a partner to speak with, there are multiple internet tools to find a partner, I haven’t tested them, I’m not going to recommend one. But talking to a partner via Skype or zoom or FaceTime would be a great way to improve your speaking. And you might be able to trade English lessons for lessons in in their language. And then in terms of where to go. LinkedIn learning is a really amazing resource. It’s free to premium members of LinkedIn if you have a premium account if you have a paid account. This benefit alone makes the cost of premium membership worth it. If you plan to do some serious self study, they have a great set of courses on both business topics, as well as the creative software type topics. And as well as technology programming data science. There’s Udacity, which has very good for data science and programming. And it’s free if you’re not getting quote unquote credits for the course. So I took a Python programming course on Udacity thought it was pretty great. EDM as I mentioned before, great for general academic courses. It’s taught by professors at leading universities in the world. So amazing access. Cognitive class is another one. They have focused on AI programming and data science Coursera, which covers business, liberal arts, programming, social science, physical science. They even have engineering courses. iversity is another one iversity and of course, YouTube. So YouTube, it’s pretty easy to waste time. But if you use it with intention, and you really find a good channel, it’s also an incredible learning platform. So you have an amazing opportunity to build your skills. I’d love to hear what you’re studying what you’ve decided, focus on what courses you really liked. email me at unleashed@umbrex.com Thanks for listening.

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