School is in full swing, and many mid-career adults are thinking of switching jobs. We’ve had a pandemic for two years, and I think most of us aren’t quite sure what the future holds in store for us. How do you decide what to major in if you’re not passionate about anything in particular? I thought I’d make a list of real world skills that will absolutely help you out in the future.

  • Base your decisions on financial opportunity. You can always learn about other stuff later, but if you’re young, or you’re in the middle of a mid-career change, you’re going to need to learn actual skills. Whether that’s learning music, or plumbing, or coding, you should be able to “do” something that’s valuable. 
  • Learn the fundamentals. Too many schools today are teaching things that are “en vogue”, but three years from now, they won’t be relevant anymore. Should you be exposed to them? Sure. Should you rely on just that for a career later on? Hell no. Learn the fundamentals, not just modern frameworks.
  • Learn how to communicate in English. If you want to compete in the English market, or in the global economy, learn English. Learn how to write it, and read many, many books written in English. Listen to English podcasts, watch English films. Immerse yourself in English pop culture. If you’re learning technical skills, learn their English equivalent so you can be valuable to future employers. 
  • Learn how money works. Envy, resentment, regret, and ignorance will slow you down. Look at money objectively, learn about ‘value investing’, learn the value of time. Working for free should always be a choice – it should NEVER be something that’s expected of you.
  • Learn to hire experts. There was a time when I thought I was an expert on contract law… until I started hiring lawyers to review contracts for me. And now, I’ll never DIY an employment or work contract ever again. They are worth every penny. Same with accountants. Accept that you have your own things to focus on, and if they’re not law or accounting, hire an expert.
  • Pick the right program. If you absolutely prefer schooling over self-education, be VERY picky about where you spend your (or your parent’s) money. Is the program a reflection of the real world taught by real-world experts? Do they have portfolios online that you can browse? If a teacher can’t show you evidence of their own work, then they have no business teaching. As a former hiring manager, we can tell when you’ve learned bullshit in your program. Which leads me to my next point:
  • If you’re stuck in a bullshit program, supplement your knowledge. Go to Indeed, type in the name of the career you want, and look at the requirements. Learn those things. Join online forums for those things. Become fluent in the language around those things. Do extra work with the mindset that it’s temporary, and that it’ll be worth it in the end.
  • Learn how to write a solid resume, and learn how to interview. Learn negotiation skills. 
  • This one is something you’ll only learn along the way: learn to burn bridges. And accept that sometimes, you’ll be let go, too. These things can feel awful, but it’s never ‘the end’. See it as an opportunity to go to greener pastures, and you’ll be just fine. And if you’re in a bad place, burn that bridge and don’t look back.

Everything you do in your professional life is FOR YOU. You get to make all the decisions. You get to structure your schooling, and your career the way you want to.

For those of you who want to be self-employed, then the best thing I could say to you is this: get your head out of the clouds, and start thinking about all the skills it takes to run a business. Talk to business owners. MANY of them. Ask them all the shit they wish they’d known before they started. ‘Cause I’ll tell you from real-world experience, that shit is hard, and you need a strong stomach for it.

The best way to future-proof your life isn’t to learn transitory skills that are in fashion today; it’s to learn the very fundamentals of what’s valuable in the real world at almost any point in time. Keep that in mind, and you’ll be just fine.