I’ve been asked to answer a really BIG question. The question is: What do you think is essential for success? Specifically, what skill is at the top of the list as a must have, indispensable, trait for people going into the workforce?
Webucator, an online learning company, asked me to write about an essential skill as part of their “Most Marketable Skill” Campaign in honor of the class of 2014. I love the idea! I’ve been thinking about what skill is the most important for a couple of weeks, and one thing kept coming to mind. Here’s a hint:
Can you guess what it is? It’s……………………
It’s so simple! Or is it? I believe self-reflection is an art, a life choice, and definitely essential for any career path you find yourself on. Self-reflection is the serious thought about one’s character, actions, and motives (thank you Merriam-Webster). In my line of work, being able to stop and check in with my thoughts, feelings, and actions is key to helping my students make progress in school. If I blindly followed one curriculum, one counseling modality, or fed the same “you can do this” line to every student, I would be failing them.
When you work with people (SPOILER ALERT: most jobs/careers require that you interact with other human beings), things can get messy faster than Usain Bolt runs the 100 meter dash. Human beings usually mean well, meaning their intentions are good, but it doesn’t always play out that way.
Have you ever worked with someone who seemed oblivious to the thoughts and feelings of his/her co-workers or customers? Have you ever felt like someone was doing the same thing over and over but expecting it to go differently, and wondering why? It all comes down to self-reflection. Being able to take a step back, observe, and thoughtfully consider what’s happening and why is the key.
Personally, I probably spend four hours too many reflecting on my work day and what I said/did/didn’t do and how I could have said/done things differently. Really, it can get out of control if you don’t develop an off switch (I’m still working on this). My point is, reflecting on how you’re doing and why you’re doing it will help you gain more success than people who don’t. It makes you indispensable to whichever company or organization you choose to offer your employment to. And, it’s a skill that cannot be taken away from you, ever.
So how do you become a self-reflecting human being? I truly believe part of it is in our unique personalities. However, I’ve honed my self-reflection skills by doing this one simple thing – shutting my mouth. I’m not kidding. Far too often, people are in a rush to say the next thing without considering what they’re saying and it’s effect on other people. When you stop talking, you can start listening. And when you listen, you can observe, which is like collecting important data you can use later. Sure, being too quiet can give people the wrong idea about your abilities, but when you’ve observed and reflected enough, that’s when you have your moment to shine! You can WOW people with your great ideas, which will likely be different from what’s being tossed around already, and that’s what makes you successful.
Please don’t think you have to meditate while sitting cross-legged on a pillow in a quiet meadow to truly self-reflect (but if this works for you, rock on). You can do it anywhere. I’ve listened and watched in noisy hallways, staff meetings, and even emotionally charged conversations with supervisors. Sometimes I do have to step away, find a quiet place, and just think. Yes it takes time; it also makes me a better school counselor and a better human being, because when you truly reflect on yourself, you see the good, the bad, and the ugly, and then you get to create an even more awesome version of YOU!
I wish the class of 2014 happy adventures on your path to finding your place in this crazy world! Thanks for reading. 🙂
Before I go, I want to encourage you to check out Webucator and all they have to offer. This month, they are offering a FREE self-paced Microsoft Word training course for anyone to take. Webucator believes in offering education and training in essential skills for success!