Future-Proof Your Career Using the 30/24 Rule
The pandemic has woken millions of people up to one truth: You cannot get through your entire career by relying on a single skill. Nor can you count on your employer to help you grow in your careers and be future-ready.
The good news is many people have begun working on the problem. According to LinkedIn’s annual Most Popular Courses list, people are investing in learning soft skills along with technical skills.
But realizing the importance of learning new skills is just half the problem. The other half is to identify whether the skills are useful.
Without concrete signals, people could go far down the wrong rabbit hole. Or they could revert to habits that offer instant rewards but cause terrible long-term pains. Or they could thrash their hands and feet wildly but make no progress.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can invest your time and energy to learn the skills that don’t just let you survive but also thrive in the future. You can keep reinventing yourself to become a valuable asset to your employers and customers.
You just need a framework to track how effective your learning process is. Something like the 30/24 Rule.
The 30/24 Rule
Every successful company ties its R&D initiatives to concrete goals. 3M, the makers of Post-Its, is one example. In 1990, it set a stretch goal: achieving 30% of all sales from products less than four years on the market.
3M is a billion-dollar conglomerate. Four years is a short time for it. You can do better. You can aim to achieve such a stretch goal in 24 months.
The 30/24 Rule means getting 30% of your results from avenues you pursued for less than 24 months.
Here are three steps to apply the rule at work.
Step #1. Identify a skill to learn.
Browse through online resources and expert opinions to discover the skills that hold promise in the future. Or explore complementary skills that let you further leverage your current expertise.
For instance, a salesperson could identify skills like people management, social media, and leadership among others along with learning the ins and outs of CRM platforms and marketing automation stacks, as LinkedIn’s Emerging Job Report suggests.
You can learn these skills through online or physical courses. But learning doesn’t end there. True education stems from applying what we learn.
Step #2. Apply the skill.
The most effective way to learn a skill is to apply it in a real-time environment. The workplace serves as the best environment for this.
Seek out early-stage projects where you can apply the new skill(s). In an MIT study, researchers identified this as a key trait that distinguished superstar performers from the rest. Joining projects during the early stages also means you’ll get access to the information you wouldn’t otherwise get, learn new ideas from smart executives, and expose yourself to new opportunities.
If you cannot connect with such people, dedicate an hour of your day to a work-related side-project. Keep your manager in the loop. You’ll appear proactive and might just win a tiny leeway to escape mindless work.
Step #3. Track your progress.
In the absence of feedback, it also becomes easy to fall back to default habits that offer instant gratification at the expense of long-term returns.
Track the developments of your project in a physical diary, Evernote, Trello, or any tool you’re comfortable with. Reflect on questions like: Where can I apply this skill? How much time am I investing in it each month? What do the results look like?
Journaling will help you measure your personal return on learning and focus on the skills that show promise. You’ll also collect material that’s insightful for training should you get put in charge of such a project.
These three steps will prove useful for you to form a process for deliberate learning, which is a skill in itself.
Be Prepared for Mistakes.
“It is impossible to have lived without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well have not lived at all — in which case you fail by default.” — J. K. Rowling
The process of deliberate learning is one of assumption, trial, and error. Most of your assumptions won’t pay off. But the ones that do will yield outsized returns.
You’ll make plenty of new mistakes. Each answer you uncover could lead to more questions. it might feel exhausting in the short term. But it pays rich dividends in the long term.
You can cross-pollinate ideas to improve in your existing role. You can build advanced cognitive skills like decision-making, critical thinking, and logical reasoning, which will remain in-demand skills in the future. You’ll build an intelligent network and spot opportunities earlier than most. You’ll apply your skills to help your team and organization achieve their goals.
All this will make you valuable to your current and potential employers. Thus, you won’t just increase your earnings; you’ll also increase your earnings trajectory.
“Your level of success will seldom exceed your level of personal development because success is something you attract by the person you become.” — Jim Rohn
Lifelong learning is no longer a good-to-have skill; it’s essential. It’s not a skill that needs time allocated separately; it should be as reflexive as breathing.
The 30/24 Rule helps you keep a score of your learning shots. Regardless of your current level, you can apply it to reinvent yourself and give your career a shot in the arm.
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