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Work Smart and Hard: Aiming for Skill Synergy to Increase Your Career Value

We frequently hear about people who quit their day jobs to go pursue their passion and are rewarded with a flexible, fulfilling lifestyle. It may sound like a pipe dream, an opportunity that is only possible for those with exceptional talent or luck, or both.

And yet as more and more people chase the fantasy and become fascinated with those who do make it, the stories of those who succeed bear a remarkable, consistent similarity. They demonstrate, for instance, that you can make progress in small but steady increments. You can train yourself to become exceptional instead of being somehow born that way. And you can definitely make your own luck.

Dealing with discomfort leads to growth

Growth doesn’t come from simply exerting a lot of effort. Just as our bodies become acclimatized to high volumes of the same exercise, our improvement seems to suffer diminishing returns. When Malcolm Gladwell popularized the 10,000-hour rule in his bestselling book Outliers: The Story of Success, many people overlooked the importance of deliberate practice. More than the sheer number of hours logged, it is how you train that matters.

Instead of spending so much time on the same small activity to hopefully, somehow, get better once you hit that magic number of hours, you need to really push yourself. Get out of your comfort zone and seek challenges so that your skill continues to grow instead of hitting a plateau.

A strategic challenge

Try something different that sets you apart from the rest. If you have been working for some time in the same job, chances are you’re already good at it. However, being skilled at something is less valuable if a lot of other people in the same field also have the same skill level.

There are many ways to pursue your continued learning on the side while maintaining a full-time job. Several institutions offer access to courses and certifications via their websites. You can learn new software or skills at your own pace, within the constraints of your schedule.

Look for synergy

Group of employees smiling

At the same time, you don’t want to push yourself into something that has no clear connection to your existing skill set. It’s important to consider the possibilities that you will unlock after putting in the extra effort. Be especially on the lookout for a combination of skills that are immediately going to make you valuable to prospective – or existing – employers.

For example, if you work in real estate, any potential success can be limited depending on your location and the state of the market. You can open up a different set of opportunities by takingan online program to become a paralegal. Mastering the ins and outs of property and insurance laws in this industry is especially useful and makes you a valuable asset capable of playing many roles.

Most people who are into self-improvement already know that it’s hard work, and are willing to put in the hours and effort. Being smart in how you go about it lets you put your work in the right direction, developing a skill set that’s more valuable to others. This gives you more control of your opportunities and is a strong first step in your journey to a better job and a more rewarding life.

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