CAREER DEVELOPMENT / JUL. 19, 2015
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Make Yourself More Valuable: Develop Your 'Meta-Skills'

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Meta-skills are what sets the finest employees apart. You might have a number of individual skills under your belt, but these don’t compare to the significantly superior meta-skills. But what are meta-skills exactly? How do they benefit people in the workplace? And how can you go about developing your meta-skills and increasing your value at work?

See Also: Top 10 Universal Skills You Need to Be Successful

How are meta-skills different from other skills?

A skill is much more specific than a meta-skill. Skills are things like the ability to code or play football. Learning a skill involves the conscious practice of something until your subconscious knows how to do the thing. You might be taught the skill or practise it repeatedly until you have absorbed it. There is the opportunity to develop your skill further and become a master at it.

Meta-skills are slightly more abstract. An example would be the ability to teach yourself something. You learn a meta-skill in the same way, but opportunities to learn and develop a meta-skill are much more difficult to find. For example, you would have to keep seeking out opportunities to teach yourself new things as opposed to repeatedly kicking a football at a net in order to become a better striker.

What are the benefits of meta-skills?

Meta-skills are much more beneficial than skills because they allow a person to learn or acquire new skills without being taught them. You might learn French at school for example, and this constitutes a skill: the ability to speak French. A meta-skill, on the other hand, would be the ability to teach yourself languages. This in turn would mean that you could teach yourself multiple languages. So you can see how the meta-skill is infinitely more valuable in this instance. What’s more, meta-skills are reflexive and can be applied to one another. So, if you have the ability to teach yourself new things you have the ability to teach yourself new meta-skills.

How can you learn and develop meta-skills?

The good news is that it is possible to learn meta-skills. In some cases, you may already have those skills but you aren’t putting them into practice. There are several ways you can apply and develop meta-skills in the workplace according to Alison A. Quirk, Executive Vice President of State Street Corporation and they revolve around four elements: seeing, understanding, envisioning and doing.

  1. Seeing: Make the effort to spot gaps or problems within current practices. Vocalise these issues and thereby change or improve them.

  1. Understanding: Instead of trying to connect with others through commonalities, put yourself in their position and see things from their perspective. This way you will begin to see things in a new light that is the basis for new ideas and approaches.

  1. Envisioning: Look at different worlds and bigger ideas to come up with new approaches to problems. Often you can overcome challenges by applying a solution from one context in an entirely different context.

  1. Doing: This involves trialling methods and products in order to see what works well and what doesn’t. The best way to gain success is to get feedback and learn as you go along.

See Also: Top 5 Steps to Communicating Your Value to Employers

Developing meta-skills might take more time than developing individual skills. But there’s no arguing that this will be time well spent. So next time you’re at work, try to implement one of Quirk’s actionable tips for developing meta-skills. Approach an issue with a new perspective and analyse the results.

Have you ever tried to develop your meta-skills? Did it make you more useful?

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