Forget Coding—Here’s The Skill You Need Most When You Start Your Career

from Fast Company

It used to be that the only way to climb a career ladder was to pick up more skills. Learn how to do X, get paid more for it, and earn job-title Y. Up you went. Each new capability you mastered got you to that “next level,” either inside your current company or at a different one. Today, many of those ladders have fallen and shattered, with just a few left standing. Lately there have been efforts to hammer together some new ones, with new skills—usually tech-based—like cybersecurity or coding expertise held up as the new keys to staying competitive in the future job market.

That isn’t exactly wrong. Some skill sets really are in higher demand than others, so it makes sense to counsel undergrads and entry-level workers to brush up in certain subject areas in order to gain an edge. But this kind of advice still reflects a “ladder-climbing” mind-set in a world that’s looking a lot more like a lattice, where talent—and people’s entire careers—are much more fluid.

In order to move up, over, side to side, and double back when you need to, all while making your way upward, the trait you need most is adaptability, not this or that tech skill. And there’s no way to adapt if you don’t have a great network you can tap from the get-go.

More here.

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11 Comments

  1. WOW, you need to know coding if you ever want to get a job anywhere because it’s the number one necessity for a job. This is a common thing heard now when people are applying to jobs but the lesser known fact is your connections are the most important thing in a job search. Your network can help you move up the corporate ladder faster than your peers because it can be used for a multitude of different ways. Your network can help you complete your project faster as you have access to resources that are available to help you complete things you are not good at. It is good to develop your own skills at a certain task but if you are able to get someone to complete a task that you lag at then your good skill would be getting the project done faster and better than your peers. An extensive network would also allow you to tap into many different job offers and many different markets. Being hardworking can only get you so far as many different are looking for hard workers but they wouldn’t know about you because of your lacking network. Building your network is simply the most necessary thing in this job market with the most prominent way of building your network is through social media. There are many different ways to build your social media network such as LinkedIn, twitter, and even Facebook. Simply retweeting or starting a conversation on twitter can in turn into a new friendly relationship on social media. This may lead to a friendship or even more importantly a new networking option. These different ways of networking can also help with another important part of the job search and that is your social media image. A company would be more willing to hire someone who looks like they are social and engages in intelligent conversations than someone who argues with someone over stupid memes. Now the new job market is search for someone with an extensive network in person and over social media as it can help you find jobs and execute your job better.

  2. Establishing a network for yourself is the most important component of obtaining a successful career. It can be self explanatory when you first look at it, but it is essential to making an impression. Networks allow you to communicate with more experienced workers and associates, allow you to stay in touch with a potential employer, and it can make the employer feel comfortable hiring you in the future. Establishing a network helps both parties involved and is sometimes even more important than having a resume. As Schmidt states in his article, networking allows you to not only develop your skills, but allows you to tap into other peoples skills, because the amount of skills you need to have in a business is the engine for your career. Your base set of skills can only take you so far in life, which makes it even more essential to establish a network to enhance other components of you skill set that you did not know you had. Making the most of your network is the best thing you can do for yourself when job searching, you cannot just introduce yourself to the people you want to associate with and have that be that, you have to follow up, yo have to offer your help if necessary, all of these things can help your strengthen your network and in turn, makes it more likely there will be a job there for you in the future.

    Going into a job without a network puts one at a disadvantage as they have nothing to fall back on except their resume, and even then, an employer wants to already know what he is getting themselves into when bringing you in. I got my first job because I had a strong network with people already employed, which gave me an edge over other candidates.

  3. This article’s title is what grabbed my attention and influenced me to read it. From the way that the article is titled, I expected it to be about why modern skills, such as coding, are not as important as they are thought to be. Although this article may touch base on why skills are not the only thing that can land you the job, it also is mostly revolved around your networking abilities. From personal experience, I’ve always been told that the best way to find a job is through the people you know. The article focuses on finding the right people for the job. Network with people in the field you want to work in, use social media to your advantage, and most importantly, be persistent.
    The most interesting piece of advice that this article suggests is to “find a person for every passion.” A lot of the time, especially when you don’t have a complete idea of where in your field you want to be, you try to network with someone that your family member knows or someone your friend interned for over the summer. This article says that you should narrow your networks down to people only in your field and to not get side tracked. I loosely agree with this because it is important to find people that will enhance your knowledge on the field you WANT to enter rather than steer you in a different direction. Networking is a powerful tool and can easily be misused.

  4. Everyone is looking for a career, especially the people coming right out of college, like myself. We all tend to think there is one set of skills everyone needs and if they do this, they will move up in the company. This is not the case anymore, people and companies look for different skill sets from different people. The new skills the companies are looking for are skills that deal with cyber security or coding. A lot of the knowledge for the younger generation is computer based and that is the direction the companies are going for. With that being said, they want to hire people who understand how to develop certain online tactics such as coding to get their business to the next level and kids, like us, will only help this objective.
    First, we need to understand that networking is the key to everything. Having a certain level or amount of skills can only take a person so far because knowing people will truly get the particular person to the top. Networking truly does help majority of people, yes working hard and doing a great job will definitely help someone get to where they want to be, but networking is the key to all. Next, focusing on what the person can control. Of course we all want to come right out of the gate being the best employee there is, but we all know that is not how it works. Great work takes time and a lot of effort to be the best in the company. The skills that many people want to develop will take a certain amount of time because not everything comes easy, the experience in that area will make that person’s skills much better. Knowing and talking to the right people definitely helps because once one starts talking to the person they want to be, they can start to ask open ended questions and ask for guidance, so they can get to their desired spot.
    Up next on the list is keeping in contact with alumni. It is hard for one to start a professional network as soon as they start, therefore, it is encouraged that one keeps up with alumni through LinkedIn. There are certain steps that one must take to keep up with their alumni. It is smart to speak to alumni that are close in age to the particular person. Having someone too far ahead of that person would actually not help much because all of the things or people they know are fading and outdated. With this way, the people who are a couple years out of college can help someone better their network and be connected to the same people they know and so forth. Alumni, in general, are smart to keep around because the conversation starter is the easiest thing to do because everyone is aware they both went to the same school, therefore, no confusion on how to start the conversation. It is smart idea to start keeping track on who one meets and the the reasoning this person can help them. Throughout this networking process, one will meet so many new faces that when they start talking, they will not be sure what his or her credentials are or why they started getting into contact in the first place. Networking is huge and if one can narrow down the confusion and make it feel like they are truly their friend because everything is written down and could be referred to, why wouldn’t they?
    Everyone has different interests and are in different fields, so why not attract towards those who would help the person get to where they want to be? We are told to look for the people who have or are in our desired interest. That would be the best way to start networking and truly building a repatrua. One can also learn something from someone that has nothing to do with their job, but then take that person’s words and makes it their priority at their respective job. Finally, networking has many parts and showing one cares for the other individual is a great step. Not only does it show who one is as a person, but it shows them that even though they are helping that person get ahead, they are not useless on the other end. When both people have something to share or enlighten us with is when the networker realizes this is not a waste of time and energy. One might not have a lot to offer in the beginning stages of their career, and that is okay, but once they start progressing through the company and really getting the hang of it, everything will go according to plan.

  5. I found this article (and title) a bit misleading and many points by the author as concerning. First, this article appears to be written in the context that it driven towards a technical related field and audience, it is not. For a web developing, computer programmer or another technically astute professional, being able to code/develop is at the very core and essence of what they do (it’s your job). Maybe, this tactic of trying to grab an audience’s attention and say “hey – you really don’t need to know as much about your job as much as you need to know someone” may work in another setting, but knowing your job is the KEY to promoting in the corporate world; especially in a technical field. Building a network while you’re in college, as you graduate and through your entire professional career is very important, but will not promote you faster or make you that more successful. This is like saying – “if you know the right people, they’ll get you in and everything will be ok”. The keys to success have been fundamental in our country for a long period of time and remain the same through time. Knowing your job and doing it beyond expectation is at the very foundation of what you do as an employee (it’s expected). The other traits, such as effective communication, networking, being punctual and professionalism are all givens that complement your very foundation. Your moral compass (character) is reflected through who you are and the very core of what you believe. This includes such traits of humility, integrity, kindness, being able to forgive and fairness.
    I’m also a bit confused on exactly when the ladders have officially “fallen and shattered” as the article describes. To my knowledge, the corporate structure and promotion ladder has remained the same for quite some time. You enter the workforce with a foundation of knowledge, through on-the-job training, secondary education (advanced degrees, certification) and mentorship you learned more about the job, mission and corporate structure. As you took on more responsibility and succeeded at those positions, you were promoted or paid in the form of a raise (or both). I’m not sure where the author got their facts and what figures they use to say that nearly all (with only a few) are left (ladders). I find this statement lacks relevant fact or substance, with no basis for accuracy. Although, I do agree with the statement that your network is a job skill, but I believe that it is not more important than your foundation of knowledge.
    The author also brought up the point that the millennial generation is being hit hard with high levels of unemployment and underemployment. I think the generation argument is irrelevant and that this statement is meaningless in this article. What generation hasn’t been hit hard through difficult economical and sociological times? The past generations have lived through two world wars, the great depression, race riots, Vietnam, Korea and the Cuban missile crisis and a long list of other challenging times that our country has faced. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe our unemployment rate is at 4.1, where it has constantly been dropping over the 7 years. Every generation is faced with challenges to overcome, this generation is no different.

    https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000

  6. I absolutely agree that networks are important in having a successful career. The article says, “The fact is that people in the early stages of their careers often have little control over how they develop their skills; their projects, and the skills and experience they gain from there, are dictated by an employer.” When employers are telling employees everything that they should be doing, employees can’t do anything themselves. This causes them to miss out on furthering their skill set, so it’s key to build good networks. One of the ways to do this is to be friendly with alumni. If an intern becomes friendly with someone that works at a company, its possible the employee helps the intern succeed. One example of this would be teaching skills that the company requires for full-time employment. This would make it a lot easier for the intern to get a full-time job at that company. Another way to network, is by going to job fairs. College students who attend are able to meet employers and can ask them what the company is like. They can learn about what specific jobs they offer, the programs, the hiring process, and what they are looking for from employees. The biggest take away from this, is that networks are already allowing for friendly relationships to be built between potential applicants and employers. This also includes social media, like Linkedin or Twitter. Using these resources give people an advantage over others for a job interview.

    From my experience, not being in a network as hurt me. When I was in high school, I tried out for the baseball team. I saw that there were a lot of other people trying out who already had known the coaches through school. One person that knew the coach had a horrible tryout, but still made the team. I had a good tryout but didn’t make the team. Based off the one person’s network with the coach, I wasn’t surprised that he made it, but I thought I didn’t make the team because I didn’t have any networks developed. It was then I realized that if I don’t start building networks with other teachers, or future employers, it may be difficult to get where I want to be in life. A lack of network cost me a spot on the baseball team, next it could be a job opportunity. Since then, I have talked to many people who work at accounting firms about what they did to get a job and what qualifications they needed. I have used this information to reach out to employers about what skills I can bring to their company, and it has made a difference. Not only did I hear about internship offers from employers, but I heard from people I know about job openings.

  7. For college students graduating school and entering the work force for the first time, having valuable skills to offer is something that is extremely important. After all, when employers are sifting through a massive pile of resumes, they are looking for who has the most to offer their company; who has the most value. Being able to add a variety of impressive skills to your resume certainly increases your value to a company, but as discussed in the article, knowing others with specialized skills willing to lend their advice also raises a potential employees value to a company.
    Prospective employees are not expected to have an endless arsenal of skills and knowledge, but having the right contacts and associates who do, greatly increases your ability to complete jobs and make decisions effectively, thus increasing your value to a company. The article describes how climbing the corporate ladder used to be different in the past, and was more reliant on waiting for positions to open it and accumulating different skills “It used to be that the only way to climb a career ladder was to pick up more skills. Learn how to do X, get paid more for it, and earn job-title Y. Up you went. Each new capability you mastered got you to that next level” although I would argue that there has always been a “it’s not what you know it’s who you know” factor to climbing any job ladder.
    Building a network as soon as possible is one of the most important things college students can do because it opens doors for opportunity. Knowing someone higher up in a company is helpful whether you work at the company not. They are essentially a human database of experience and knowledge that you can tap into with a touch of a cell phone. They can offer advice to certain situations which you can both use and learn from. You can observe how more experienced people handle different situations and apply it to future decisions you may need to make for your own job in the future.
    While it is convenient to turn to a network of professionals when advice or help is needed, a working relationship is a two way street. It is important to always be willing to lend a hand in return if needed, and at the very least let them know that they are appreciated. A working network can deteriorate if one person is constantly asking the other for advice or help while not being much of an asset themselves.

  8. This article by Lars Schmidt is interesting, since I am a senior and I am constantly hearing from professors and articles on what skills are important to have for when I graduate. Coding is usually a skill that many people say is important if your going to work in the business or IT factor. This article also mentioned how much more difficult it is today to get jobs because in the past you simply had to learn certain skills and you would be qualified for a job and make certain amount of money. But today it is a lot harder. One of the things I like mentioned by the article is how it mentions adaptability as the most needed trait, I fully believe this because the business world continues to change more and more every day so it important to be able to adapt to the new changes that will happen in our lifetime. Another intelligent thing mentioned by the article was how your network is a job skill, this is especially true in todays world. Many of the professors in my businesses classes preach the importance of LinkedIn and having a strong network of followers who can vouch for you and pull you up. I also know of many of my friends who have been able to get jobs and internships because of their parent’s friends and co workers. This article was the first time I had heard of the gig economy which offers non traditional jobs, this is an interesting alternative because this means that you are working for more and more companies which is why we have to be adaptable and lean the skills for each individual company. Another interesting idea the article mentioned was to “hit up alumni”. It is important to try and use people who are working at a company who also went to your same university as a bonus, this could serve as an in to get into the company. Also while you are in school, you must add your peers on LinkedIn as they might come in handy in the future. Just like the article mentioned, it is important to network with your peers while you are still in school. Lastly, it talked about twitter, majority of me and my peers are all on social media and nowadays social media offers a bigger platform. It could be a platform for networking as mentioned. I recently starting monitoring what I posted on my twitter in hopes of me not damaging any future opportunities. Overall, this was a well written article that goes over all the points well, its able to show me and my peers and soon to be graduating seniors what skills we need when graduating.

  9. The author of this article is spot on in saying that career paths are no longer straight lines, or ladders, but more fluid and unstructured. It is no longer as easy as just doing step a, then b, then c to get to your dream job. Many jobs today require both technical skills and networking skills. In my opinion, both are equally as important, and someone with both technical and networking skills would have the best chance at getting a job than someone only with technical skills.

    People with broad networks have more to offer to employers than those without. Even if you don’t have certain skills, your network allows you to broaden your skills to the width of your network. As the author said, this is especially important for inexperienced workers, because when you are lacking in a certain skill, someone in your network can help you in that area, rather than you stretching yourself thin to learn a new skill. Also, the saying “it’s who you know” is often very true. At my job, we typically interview the people who have a reference that we know and trust first. It is much easier to get a job if someone that you know already works there, because companies would rather hire someone familiar than a completely random applicant. Thus, your network can be vital in getting you a job or moving up in a company. It is not to say that you should not take the time to enhance your technical skills and knowledge like coding, but sometimes it is much easier to get ahead in your career simply by making sure to branch out and get to know people in and out of your field.

  10. As free lancing becomes bigger and bigger and new ideas seem to spring up every day, the career world continues to become a constant market filled with everchanging job titles and descriptions. With new ideas come new jobs and more appealing opportunities for millennials and baby boomers. It seems overnight, the 9-to-5 job has been abandoned for one in IT or some other technological field. And not for bad reason, our technological world is ever growing and reflects the future. However, what I found insightful about this article was the idea that we are no longer in the era of there being a specific skill or a specific criterion to help you secure a job. Rather, just as the author said, one’s best asset is adaptability. This is both terrifying and reassuring. What this constant unpredictability means is that employers seem to be searching for better and more adaptable workers rather than those who have a range of different skills. This can be reassuring because being the best at anything is almost impossible nowadays. Everyone has access to the internet, everyone has the ability to learn the next new “skill” just by searching it up on the internet. Actually, what I found so ironic in this article was the fact that in high school I thought that coding would be the key to my success in my future career, regardless of where I ended up. Following through with this idea I logged onto CodeAcademy and started a free trial where I began to begin learning this skill that would set me up for my future. I found the author’s use of coding being, basically, a lost skill to be hilarious because just a year ago I thought the complete opposite. I’m the walking example of “you’re not special because you can code”. All I had to do was sign up for a program online, that was free, and make the time to work at it. That is the world we live in. And I’ll be honest and say that I never finished that course, but just the sheer fact that I could’ve, to me, says a lot. Suddenly coding does not look so unique and all these different “skill sets”, although a great asset to the workforce, are almost a given in many fields.
    What I think the author was trying to convey is that we have moved into a career world not centered on one specific skill like coding or typing, but one where employers find it best to hire someone who can adapt to this ever-changing mess and develop whatever skill that then means. Which is an extremely valid point. Looking back even ten years ago, we can see an incredible transformation, specifically in technology and the variation of jobs. I mean think about it, it was someone’s job twenty years ago to market cd’s as the “next best thing”. My little brother doesn’t even know what a cd is! For all I know I could get a job in marketing only to find myself ten years down the line into my career completely useless because our technological world now revolves around hologram marketing. This idea only enforces the idea that as a future employee it is probably my best bet to start advertising myself as adaptable. This also means beginning to adapt, now, so I become accustomed to it.
    I can see how this concept could be obvious to many people, but you would be surprised to hear the amount of people I know talk about how they miss “the old days and the old ways”. And as much as it is nice to reminisce, it is also important that we do not stop growing with the times.

  11. A few weeks ago, Institute of Management Accountant hosted a power lunch with EisnerAmper on Professional branding and networking. Our guest speaker started off his conversation using the same quote that Robert mentioned in his comment post. “It isn’t what you know, but who you know”. I am sure that this saying is common to many, however many tend to miss or overlook the importance of the saying. I never understood the importance of networking until my sophomore during a work meeting. Towards the end of my internship, my boss gathered the new intern and myself to thank us and show his appreciation for the help we have been providing to the company. During the meeting, he mentioned one of their client and their company. I went ahead and explained to him about an event that I put together and mentioned that I reached out to the company to be a sponsor for the event. Unfortunately, they were not able to sponsor. He then mentioned to me that I should have came to him and maybe it would have worked out. The work I was doing for my internship, allowed me access to most of their client list, which mean I was aware of the connection that my boss had with the company. Due to the fact that I lacked the importance of networking, I missed out on an opportunity.

    Prior to reading the article, I did not think that networking could be a job skill, but the more I think about it, the more I start to realize that it is skill. A lot of individuals in the workforce are at their position because of someone they know. Many are able to get interviews because of who they know. For example, our guest speaker from the power lunch was able to get his job at EisnerAmper because his friend is a partner at the company. He also mentioned that his position or department was established upon his arrival to the company.

    As college students, we have the tendency to take the cards of professionals but never follow up. We need to work on establishing meaningful connection with these people because we never know if they might be able to help us some day.

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