Your Key to Career Success: Pursuing Rare and Valuable Skills

Your Key to Career Success: Pursuing Rare and Valuable Skills

Table of Contents

🎨 Accelerate Your Career: Why Pursuing Rare & Valuable Skills is Essential for Advancement

Economist Adam Smith once said, “The real price of everything, what everything really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it.” This principle applies to the job market as well.

The more effort and dedication you put into acquiring a rare skill, the more valuable you become. By mastering a skill that is in high demand but low in supply, you position yourself as a top candidate in your field. This not only increases your chances of landing a job but also opens the door to more lucrative opportunities.

📈 Unlocking Success: How to Pursue Rare & Valuable Skills

In the realm of career advancement, the pursuit of rare and valuable skills often emerges as the cornerstone of success. This sentiment lies at the heart of Cedric Chin’s article ‘If You Want a Great Career, Go After Rare & Valuable Skills ’.

A Brief Introduction to Cedric Chin

Cedric Chin currently operates Commoncog, a platform focused on understanding business expertise and how to accelerate it. Previously, he led content marketing at Holistics, where he doubled the company’s annual recurring revenue in 2021.

Before that, he managed the Vietnam operations of Floating Cube Studios, overseeing a shift from consulting to products and significantly increasing revenue.

🧠Key Lessons From ‘If You Want a Great Career, Go After Rare & Valuable Skills’

Lesson 1: Navigate the Path of Difficulty or Obscurity

I have a friend — let’s call him John — who works for a multi-national telecommunications company. I don’t know what his job title is, because it’s most likely something generic like ‘senior engineer’ or ‘project manager’ or something equally bland — the point being that his job title doesn’t reflect his true vocation. What John’s job really is is that he’s the guy you look for when you need to lay a new submarine communication cable. Submarine communication cables are the things that allows countries to connect to the internet. Let’s say that Vietnam wants to invest in a swanky new fibre-optic internet line, because its current internet pipes get eaten by sharks . John is the person who figures out the exact route — the ‘architect’, if you will, of the internet-pipe-laying industry.

It’s clear that John has a career moat: his job requires such a rare and valuable skillset that companies can’t easily replace him with another engineer. He never has to worry about losing his job in the short term, and as long as his skillset is difficult to learn — and so long as governments and companies need internet cables — he can rest secure in his career.

John path to becoming an expert in laying submarine communication cables was far from linear. Over a decade, he navigated through various roles within the telecommunications industry, always choosing opportunities that allowed him to acquire increasingly rare and valuable skills. His job requires a unique blend of technical expertise, logistical acumen, and legislative knowledge, making him indispensable in his field.

This strategy involves embarking on a non-traditional career path and continuously seeking out opportunities to develop niche skills that are difficult to replicate. Elon Musk ’s venture into space exploration with SpaceX exemplifies navigating the path of difficulty or obscurity. In the early 2000s, when Musk founded SpaceX, the commercial space industry was virtually non-existent. By pioneering innovative technologies and challenging established norms, Musk has built a company with a unique set of skills and capabilities in space exploration.

Despite facing skepticism and setbacks, Musk’s unwavering determination to navigate the path of difficulty has positioned SpaceX as a leader in the aerospace industry.

🤔 How to Apply to My Career?

  1. Specialized Skill Development:
  • Identify Niche Areas: Research and identify specialized skills or niche industries within your field that are in demand but may be overlooked by others.
  • Become an Expert: Position yourself as an expert in these niche domains by consistently honing your skills, staying updated on industry trends, and actively contributing to relevant discussions and forums.
  1. Embrace Challenges and Take Risks:
  • Step Out of Your Comfort Zone: Be willing to take on challenges and projects that push you out of your comfort zone and require you to learn new skills or adapt to unfamiliar environments.
  • Embrace Failure as Growth: View setbacks and failures as opportunities for growth and learning rather than obstacles. Use them as stepping stones to refine your approach and enhance your resilience.

Lesson 2: Embrace Strategic Prediction

I have a friend — we’ll call her Alex — who is making the bet that augmented and mixed reality interfaces will be an important interaction model of the future. She’s going after jobs at the edge of the field — which in this case are jobs that straddle the line between research and product in the big four tech companies in the US.
The ideal outcome for her bet is that AR and VR interfaces take off the way she thinks they will, and she’d have made her name establishing the best practices for UX in the field. This makes her skillset uniquely rare and valuable — she’s staked her claim on an area long before it’s become clear that it is lucrative or important. But even if this doesn’t turn out to be the case, Alex would likely be able to hop to her next opportunity off the basis of her career capital in this field.
Alex’s strategy is built around prediction: it’s not yet clear that her field is valuable or lucrative, and she’s able to build her skill before it becomes obvious to the masses that it is. There’s some foresight needed for this strategy, and some risk, but if it pays off, Alex would be very comfortable indeed.

Alex is betting on the future importance of augmented and mixed reality interfaces. She positions herself at the forefront of this emerging field by targeting jobs that straddle the line between research and product development in major tech companies.

By doing so, she aims to establish herself as a pioneer in setting best practices for user experience (UX) in AR and VR interfaces. Though the outcome of her bet is uncertain, Alex’s proactive approach allows her to build rare and valuable skills before they become mainstream. This strategy requires foresight and entails some risk, but if successful, it can lead to substantial career rewards.

🤔 How to Apply to My Career?

  1. Assess Future Demand: Evaluate the long-term potential and demand for these skills by analyzing industry trends, growth projections, and emerging market needs.
  2. Invest in Skill Acquisition: Once identified, invest time and resources in acquiring expertise in these unattractive yet valuable skill areas through targeted learning initiatives and practical experience.
  3. Build Industry Connections: Network with professionals, mentors, and industry experts within the targeted niche areas to gain insights, guidance, and potential career opportunities.

Lesson 3: Pursue Unattractive but Valuable Skillset

In contrast, my current career moat was built off the back of a geographical bet: that startups in South East Asia would expand to multiple regional markets in pursuit of growth, and that the ability to run offices in these markets was a rare and valuable skill.
Most people aren’t comfortable moving to a foreign country, aren’t able to adapt to uncomfortable new cultures, or aren’t willing to learn to deal with corrupt, foreign bureaucracies. But I was perfectly willing to do all three things, and I’ve gotten quite competent at it after three years at my last job. My moat exists for as long as I’m able (or willing!) to move.

The individual, like the author, identifies a niche market—startups expanding into multiple regional markets in Southeast Asia. Recognizing the scarcity of professionals willing to navigate unfamiliar cultures and bureaucracies, they position themselves as experts in running offices in these markets.

Despite the challenges, including personal sacrifices such as relocating frequently, this strategy provides a unique career moat based on geographical expertise. The individual’s willingness to embrace discomfort grants them a competitive edge and job security in a specialized field. Just as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

🤔 How to Apply to My Career?

  1. Long-Term Perspective: Adopt a long-term outlook when pursuing unattractive skillsets, recognizing that their value may not be immediately apparent but could become highly sought after in the future. Develop a deep understanding of the underlying principles and potential applications of these skills to position yourself as a valuable asset in your field.
  2. Risk Management: Acknowledge the risks associated with pursuing unattractive skillsets, such as limited job opportunities or initial skepticism from peers. Mitigate these risks by diversifying your skillset, maintaining a strong professional network, and staying adaptable to changes in the market landscape.

🔖 Key Takeaways

To Go After Rare & Valuable Skills, you should keep these 3 lessons in mind:

  1. If the path to your unique combination of valuable skills is opaque, your skillset can be rare and valuable.
  2. If a skillset is unattractive but valuable, it can also be rare and valuable.
  3. Lastly, specializing in a skillset before its value becomes evident can make it rare and valuable.


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