• Neil

5 Pillars: Skills To Pay the Bills

How to identify and develop the #1 hard skill and soft skill for Your Next Big Thing. Photo: Branko Stancevic


Skills training develops the necessary Capability for Your Next Big Thing.

10 Steps to Success

  1. (Optional: Use Events to locate any missing links below)

  2. Sit down with someone highly effective in your target role.

  3. Work together to identify 1 primary soft skill and 1 primary hard skill for the daily performance of that role. Ask questions to understand how this performance drives their key metrics and goals output.

  4. Rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 and compare the gap with your shadow.

  5. Validate and refine your observations with a Well-Placed Mentor.

  6. Create a time-bound plan to close the gap. Coaches can help.

  7. Start small and move quickly. Take a free skills training from their department, online, or from a professional association.

  8. Apply these skills in a Relevant Project.

  9. Culminate with a hard skills Certification.

  10. Apply for the role.

Skills training is fundamental for Your Next Big Thing. You control this - and it's a direct investment to your own Capability. You can begin these 10 steps right now, no matter your current confidence level. If you do, you will learn what YOUR bridge looks like and how long it takes to build.

I followed the 10 steps above to bridge my Next Big Thing. The 5 Pillars approach helped me reduce setbacks and overcome them faster. Below, I share my story and conclude with learnings and recommendations.

Here's how I started.

I looked up a friend who made the change I wanted to make. He had a similar background and had grown highly effective in his new role. Before long, he was traveling to London with his Solutions Architect to meet the founders and C-suite in his top accounts.

Identify & Validate Target Skills

I invited them for dinner and drinks and observed their dynamic. I asked each of them what was great about working with the other and how they approached their role. Understanding 'what good looks like' in the target role helped define my 5 Pillars.

The next day I asked to shadow them as they prepared for customer conversations. I simply worked from the same room and soaked it up.

I completed 3 more coffee meetings with people doing, managing, or supporting my target role.

At this point I had a grip on what I believed were the #1 hard skill and #1 soft skill required. I scored myself on these two skills. To do so, I looked back at my own key achievements and performance review feedback.

Create Your Plan

I took this hypothesis and self-assessment and validated it with a Well-Placed Mentor. Together, we created a time-bound growth plan for me to close gaps within 6 mos.

Problem: I was in e-commerce, and had no IT sales experience. My current role was not as demanding or complex. I rarely had to negotiate terms or pitch technical products.

Soft Skill: Negotiation

My current department didn't require advanced negotiation skills. I realized I had to look outside for training.

I got creative and looked at other departments which did require these skills. I figured they might offer the training I needed.

I found the department managing decades-long relationships with the largest global brands. They perform annual terms negotiations. I searched our training portal and found they had developed a highly-effective training. Naturally, it covered advanced persuasion and negotiation techniques to serve their employees.

Although it wasn't expected for my current role, and I wasn't an ordinary attendee, I signed up and went.

The training was outstanding. It directly addressed skills I needed for my next big thing. I debriefed learnings with my Mentor. He pointed out ways I could create opportunities to practice these skills in my current role. I created a new Project to do so.

Hard Skill: IT - Cloud Architecture on AWS

I am passionate about computers, but I had close to zero experience with IT sales and the cloud services industry.