Sovereign Man…Notes from the Field….via E-Mail…..

In Business/Political Trends Worldwide, Jobs on October 19, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Sovereign Man
Notes from the Field

Date: October 19, 2010
Reporting From: Hong Kong, SAR

The business class cabins on Cathay Pacific’s 747s jumbo jets have a unique configuration– the seats are fully flat (very comfortable for a long flight) and laid out at a 45 degree angle in order to maximize the number of seats. As such, you get a pretty good view of what the guy across the aisle is doing.

On my particular flight this morning (which started with a 5:30am departure from Harare), the gentleman across from me was reading a rather peculiar book, “The best answers to every job interview question” or some such title.

I was curious, and we had 13-hours to kill, so I struck up a conversation and asked if he was headed to Hong Kong for a job interview. He was, in fact, and quite excited about it.

I don’t want to give too many details about the man or the job, but I will say that he had been out of work for quite some time, and he told me how he had spent an incredible amount of time buffing up his resume.

“Oh, that’s great,” I said, “… new skills are always an advantage. Did you get any certifications or acquire any new specialties?”

Bewildered, he stared blankly. “Oh, no, I just changed the wording, you know, to make things sound a lot stronger.”

“I see.”

Clearly, we were at an impasse. He couldn’t understand why someone should waste time learning new skills, and I couldn’t understand why someone would waste time trying to make himself seem more competent, rather than actually to become more competent.

Ironically, in that same day’s newspaper, there was an article about how Delta Airlines, the US carrier famous for having lost billions of dollars (and millions of passengers’ luggage) was starting to hire again on increased appetite for travel.

The catch? They want new flight attendants with language skills, specifically Mandarin, Japanese, Dutch, and Spanish.

Delta is not alone. Employers worldwide are being more picky about who they choose– they’re willing to hire, but in an effort to maintain recession-level productivity, they’re increasing the duties of a single position that used to be divided among several people.

Thus, despite high unemployment, many companies are having trouble filling their positions. I wrote last week about the vacancies for skilled job in South Africa. Even in the US, one of the world’s hardest hit economies in terms of joblessness, there are 3.2 million vacant positions according to the AP.

Skills are the commodity of value… and everyone, whether unemployed, employed, self-employed, business owner, investor, etc. should strive to acquire them. The more skilled we are, the more value we can add to others (and ourselves), and thus the more prosperous we can become.

To be fair, I think my new friend on the plane had the wrong attitude, but the right idea– it’s smart to scour the world for the places where your existing skills are in high demand. But adding an array of new skills makes one even more valuable and competitive– in your job, your business, or your investments.

Remember– the world is changing. There’s no need to panic, but preparation is key. Skill development is a large part of that.

In a future letter, I’d like to talk about some of the skills (like languages) that are timeless and worthy of developing… but in the meantime, I’d like to hear from you: What skills do you think are the most important in a changing world, and how would you go about developing them?

Until tomorrow,

Simon Black
Senior Editor,


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