Start Developing New Skills Before You Need Them

Do you ever feel “stuck” in your current role? Like you’ve hit a ceiling? Like you are meant to do something else, but you just don’t know what it is? Do you have aspirations for “more” in your career? Do you know exactly what you want to do, but you just can’t seem to break into that role?

Most of us have thoughts like that from time to time (especially in our current climate), and if you are one of those people, you are in the right place.

A couple of years ago, I read Do Over: Make Today the First Day of Your New Career by Jon Acuff. The original subtitle of the 2015 edition was “Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck.” I like that subtitle better, but since I’m not a best-selling author, I’ll let it slide. Anyway, I am a big fan of the book. It contains some great advice for anyone who is (or could be) going through a career transition, whether that transition is voluntary or not.

Many of you in The New School Leader community are trying to make a transition into your first assistant principal position, and many more of you will someday be trying to transition from the assistant principalship into your next leadership role, whatever that may be. That is what led me to want to share some of my notes from Jon’s book about why we need to be diligent about developing new skills.

So, let’s go ahead and get started already.

Have you ever heard of a Career Savings Account (CSA)? If not, here’s the formula for it:

Learning new skills is an essential part of the career savings account

The short explanation of this is that while we are working as hard as we can in our current roles, we are also constantly investing in our CSA by building our relationships, our skill sets, and our character because we never know when we are going to need to make a withdrawal.

Now that you know what a CSA is, here are three reasons you should start developing new skills right now.

Your current career will become extinct eventually

How many jobs are exactly the same today as they were 10 years ago? Very few. Let’s be honest. Most things look completely different than they did just two years ago. The world is changing at an incredibly fast rate, and the way we communicate, do business, travel, teach, etc… is changing right along with it. Even if we are the absolute best at something, we cannot afford to lean on “This is the way we’ve always done it” or “This is what got me this far.” That will doom us to extinction. Just ask Blockbuster.

Developing new skills will help make you “stuck proof”

For those of you who feel stuck at work, try developing a new skill. Find something that you want to get better at, and attack it. What is your principal really good at that you wish you were really good at too? What is it that makes that one teacher the best one on the team? Figure it out, and try to develop that skill. What is one of the skills that your appraiser says you need to improve on? Try to turn one of those skills into a strength. I know that when I am stretching myself and trying to learn something new on my own terms, I never feel bored or stuck. I get excited about new challenges and learning new things. As Jon Acuff says, “It’s hard to get stuck in an old situation when you put a priority on investing in new skills.”

Developing new skills can help you find passions and dreams that you didn’t know you had

Sometimes you don’t even know that you’re passionate about something until you try it. If you would have asked me 15 years ago if I wanted to be an administrator, I would have laughed at you. I wanted to coach football, and I was dead set on becoming a head football coach. When I started pursuing my master’s degree in education, I only did it in order to make myself more marketable for head coaching positions.

Funny enough, by the end of my first class, I started thinking, “Man, I kind of like this stuff.” I completed my administrative internship and realized that I had a passion for educational leadership that I didn’t know existed 18 months earlier. That is what started me down this journey. Jon’s book is full of examples of people who have shared a similar experience. Had I not gotten my master’s degree, I never would have realized how much I love coaching adults, and I would have completely missed out on something I love even more than coaching football.

If you are trying to make a transition in your career, you can’t lean on the skillset that got you where you are today. You have to keep growing and learning new things. Keep seeking out new challenges that will push you to develop new skills. That is how you prepare yourself for the career opportunities that may present themselves. I interviewed a new assistant principal a couple of weeks ago, and one of the things he said was “Sometimes I think the hardest part about the assistant principal job is actually getting the assistant principal job.” It may not be THE hardest part of the job, but as many of you can attest, it is certainly difficult. Continuing to develop new skills can only help you if you are trying to make that transition.

Even if you’re not trying to make a transition, it’s still a great idea to add new skills to your toolbelt because if we have learned anything over the last two years, it’s that we have to be prepared to pivot. We just never know when we might be forced into a transition that we never saw coming.

I’d love to hear from you. What new skill are you currently working on developing, or what skill would you like to develop? Let us know in the comments.

If there is something you would like to ask us about, or if there is a topic you would like us to discuss here or on our YouTube Channel, you can contact us here. We are always looking for suggestions.

The best news is that you are here right now, and you are trying to better yourself. If you’d like to take the next step with us, our free newsletter will be launching soon, and we would LOVE to be able to share it with you. If you are interested in receiving regular email updates about strategies and resources for new and aspiring school leaders, you can subscribe to the newsletter here.

We’ll see you next time!

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