6 Rs In Establishing An Online Identity

When I came out with Online Personal Brand a few years ago, I differentiated from the other personal brand approaches (fourteen books I read) by creating a functional model. I suggest each person, first establishes each of three elements – skill set, aura, and identity – then projects them onto networks; in the book, I provide a detailed discussion of each of these elements and when they overlap.

Online Personal Brand
Online Personal Brand

I did not jump on the ‘self-promotion’ or ‘popularity contest’ bandwagon. Self-promotion is necessary in situations, but so is self-prevention. Self-promotion is not me, so I do not relate. I promote ‘idea promotion’ and getting recognition when and if deserved.

The identity element is critical (and something often left unattended by personal branding experts). In a hyper-connected world, we constantly make new connections, write posts, and share content in social media without considering the consequences. We get enamored by the ‘network effect’.

Despite what they tell you, companies offering a service either advocate an identity or network – something I call network versus identity. It makes sense. According to Reeds’ Law, the utility of networks can scale exponentially by the size of the network. In addition, social media services offer ‘profiles’ that are essentially boxed layouts so there is not a lot of latitude to express yourself in a visually appealing way – a personalized, deeper way.

As you establish an identity – a personal website and social media profiles, consider the six R’s:

  • Redundancy. Think about how your content and information is used across the internet. Can you take steps to consolidate, cross reference articles?
  • Relevancy. How do you fit on your networks? Make connections with purpose. Try to recognize value or a reason in making a connection. Establish your own expertise.
  • Rights. As you share content online, consider royalty and copyright privileges. With almost every social media service, you relinquish royalty rights to your works.
  • Relationships. Networking requires making connections with varying depth. Remember to be human.
  • Rule. Take ownership of your identity. With your personal website, take control down to pixel of space.
  • Resonance. Similar to relevancy, consider how your message (in content, posts, updates, etc.) is unified and clear.

I have argued a personal website is an ideal representation of your identity. In constructing a personal website, it should be all about you. Visit www.theprofessionalwebsite.com to learn more.

New Skills Search

Search Skills
Search Skills

Introducing a new skills search on Skill Culture. With this search, you can search on just about anything and get the same expected result – a manageable list of skills.

In addition, (if you are a teacher or professor) you can add new skills, methodologies, and relationships – all you have to do is create an account.

(I would like to see this grow like Wikipedia framework, where experts participate in building the content.) All content is verified before going live.

Why would practitioners want to participate? There are a few benefits:

  • This becomes a platform where practitioners work together to develop a set of methods and application behind skills.
  • The search is accessible to students, so there is someone accessing the results. (A practitioner can influence the search results.)
  • This skills database will be accessible to the Skills Label, Skill Syllabi, and Skills Based Approach application.


Skills Culture Could Help With High School Engagement

Student engagement dramatically falls from middle school to high school. According to a massive survey of US and Canadian students, Gallup found almost ‘three quarters of all surveyed fifth-grade students’ are engaged, while only ‘one-third of surveyed students in 10th, 11th and 12th grades are engaged”.

Student Engagement
Student Engagement

Yes, high schoolers are growing outside of the classroom, participating in sports, making friendships (many of them lifelong), and exploring interests, so school seems unappealing, too structured. But ideally (in my opinion), the percentage of engaged students remains somewhat stable from middle school to high school.

A small disclaimer, the high school model might not work for everyone and does not have to. Students who work towards a career outside of school or align themselves with a skilled trade might never get engaged in high school. For example, a programmer/ hacker who does a lot of coding in his or her free time still secures a future career (moreover, the standard high school program still lags what is offered in extracurricular activities related to programming). Another example are students who are working while in high school; hopefully they get the necessary skills for future growth (ideally with the help of a mentor).

Why are students becoming so disengaged when learning becomes so critical to their future success, when they must make mature decisions of what skills they need and how to acquire and them?

Something I have been proposing for years: teenage students get self and socially aware. They are impressionable and after high school make one of the biggest decisions of their life. (In the context of Skills Based Approach, during the planning stage, students identify an evolving set of skills and an action plan to acquire them. Self-discovery might come from a game, test, simulation, etc.)

There is considerable growth in resources to identify personal learning and career tracks. One type is a game or VR to simulate actual experiences. Knack is making considerable headway in this area. Another type is to collect data/content from your everyday experiences (big data) and then crunch out the analytics. A teenager using FitBit devices might identify behaviors or tendencies worth developing. Or a teenager might analyze their posts in social media to identify personality traits (FiveLabs).

Gallup identifies six ways to keep kids excited about school: create hope; foster talent; care a lot; recognize creative teachers and teaching; have fun; and model engagement. Self-discovery is one step forward. Personalized, adaptive learning is another step forward. Competency based learning removes a ‘seat time’ contingency and allows for underperforming students to get more help, average students choose how much time to spend learning, and overachieving students to move on when ready.  Games, VR, and experiential learning is a leap forward. This is what is going to make learning fun. (Skills Label™ is a display to express learning expectations and outcome for any discrete task. Teachers can create labels for each of these learning types.)

These poor engagement numbers bother me as I feel lifelong learning is the best way to achieve (career) happiness. High school is one time in a person’s life dedicated to learning, exploration, and personal and social growth. With such an investment, seems wasteful to have two-thirds of students not engaged at school. Skills Culture is a mindset where students are motivated to learn and apply skills, perhaps one lens to help improve these low engagement numbers. With a Skills Culture:

  • A Growth Mindset. Students are motivated. Most students feel they can learn skills if they put in the necessary time and effort.
  • Personalized. There is required learning. But otherwise, students work on their own evolving skill set. Students learn their own way.
  • Experiential Learning. Learn to practice and apply skills. Students get motivated on actually applying their knowledge.

Join the online community: http://www.skillsculture.com

Hire Character. Hire Skill. Train Skill.

When I first heard the phrase: “Hire Character. Train Skill.” I protested, not because of the character statement but rather the skill statement. The intention is to emphasize character over skill in hiring. But I think someone who has mastered his or her skills deserves commendation (getting hired). Skills have a very human element, especially when you start to talk about ‘soft skills’ and behaviors and analytical thinking skills, both of which are extremely hard to automate.

I got in a social quagmire trying to express my point of view as many argued hiring is all about character. So, I thought it was worth further exploration.

Hire Character. I understand you hire someone based on character. You always evaluate someone for sound character. The evaluation differs based on the type of role this person plays in your organization. A leader, manager, or someone in HR must have exceptional character. They are interfacing with your workers and lead by example. The bar for programmers might be lower – it is a highly technical skilled job with less interface with the team. (If an employee does not lie, cheat, or steal and has the skills, then they perform well and do not hurt the company.)

The type of company matters too; perhaps this is where the promotion versus prevention relationship comes into play. If a company is in marketing, branding, or hospitality, character is measured not only internally, but also externally by clients and the public in general; in a way, a company promotes the character of its employees. A software company hires engineers based on whether they can immediately start contributing; a company wants to prevent poor character from harming the normal flow of business.

Hire Skill. I think you hire based on skills. These candidates have already put the time, expense, and dedication to properly learn a set of skills. You have candidates prove they have the skills by demonstration and /or assessments. Furthermore, in applying, candidates signal they know what it takes to apply the skills and they want to move forward in learning them. In addition, you should assess the soft skills (non-technical, and subtle skills) that represent your company culture.

Train Skill. I believe in a growth mindset, where a student or professional feels motivated to acquire skills if they put in the necessary time and effort; part of a skills culture. Therefore, if a company is willing to pick up the expense (time, money, and resources), then they should be able to teach the necessary skills. However, there will be variances in the expenses and motivation levels of new hires. There is no guarantee a new hire sticks through the process.

So, all I did was insert “hire skill” into the phrase ahead of “train skill”.

Why (How) to Think in Skills…

I have always had a broad perspective of skills, often depicting them as the foundation of learning and verb of knowledge (phases I have used over the years). I understand my perspective is not shared by everyone (yet), though it is gaining momentum. Thought it might be useful to make a case for my all-in investment with skills, competencies, and related methods and applications.

Skill Types
Skill Types

A few years back, I searched and got my hands on an unscrubbed database of skills. It had about 4,500 skills. Since then, I have been slowly rebuilding the database to add definitions, categories, and incorporating them into a search. The benefit is I have a single database feeding each of the Skills applications: Skills Based Approach℠, Skills Label™, and Skill Syllabi℠; practitioners and learners work with the same set of skills. It is a never-ending process as skills are being added all the time.

Often when a new technology is introduced, there are also new associated skill(s). A great example is mobile internet and cloud computing and all the skills associated with using this technology. According to Future of Jobs survey “mobile internet, cloud technology” (22%) is the top technologic drivers already impacting employees’ skills. Big data, processing power, new energy supplies and technologies, internet of things and sharing economy are other drivers mentioned in the survey.

A great resource to understand the demand for new skills is the Future Work Skills 2020, which identified some of the emerging transferable skills (such as transdisciplinary, cognitive load management, cross cultural competency, virtual collaboration, design mindset, social intelligence, sense making, and computational thinking).

The chart above shows a sample from the database. There are five skill types, with a total and percent representation in this sample. The chart is meant to show proportion of skills assigned to each type and introduce five skill types.

Technical skills are what most people think of when talking about skills. They are unique to a subject or discipline, which we apply in a career and sometimes work towards mastery in. Of course, this type of skill holds the largest share, has the most new skills added, and has the biggest swings in demand for related skills.

Transferable skills transcend across disciplines and subjects. Theses skills are becoming increasingly important as workers are changing careers more frequently. Building competencies with these skills makes it easier to fill skill gaps when pivoting into another career.

Soft skills are communication and interpersonal skills and behaviors. Like any other skill, we can deliberately practice them in our experiences. Many significant practitioners (leaders and managers too), are saying soft skills will have more of an impact on success than technical skills. (I am a big fan of Travis Bradberry’s work on emotional intelligence.)

Thinking skills are the foundation of learning gained from education and higher education. With proper thinking skills, many of the technical and transferable skill can be learned. Thinking skills also make life more meaningful and allow for persons to interpret arts and the humanities. (In his book) Derrick Bok says: “professors almost unanimously agree teaching students to think critically is the benchmark of higher education”. Finally, these 8 skills do not change much so it is critical is to understand the methods and application behind them.

Art skills are those related to arts and the humanities. There is a lot of skill required to become an expert in these fields. Some is acquired through application and some through natural talent or inspiration. Skills are also needed in the interpretation of arts and humanities. Understand the slight change from STEM to STEAM, a worthy addendum.

Why Skills?

  • Occupations or specialties are changing too fast: “The most in-demand occupations or specialties did not exist 10 or even five years ago, and the pace of change is set to accelerate.” The Future of Jobs – World Economic Forum
  • Skills are tangible, something to talk about. They are: Definable, standardized, portable, searchable, measurable, and flexible.
  • Skills are the ‘verb’ in knowledge. It is the action part. Skills define how we think, converse, problem solve, create, engineer, write, debate, play and so on. They are the underlying foundation of all learning.
  • Displacement of jobs due to automation and AI. Need to build skills unique to human capabilities. Identify and acquire skills that complement these new technologies. “Everything that can be automated will be automated.” (Pew Research Digital Life in 2025)

Adopting a Skills Culture

In part, I came up with the name “Skills Culture” as a rip from “Talent Culture” – a website I have been following for years. Talent Culture is an edgy, smart concept (career, leadership, and workplace advice) directed towards sophisticated white collar workers; Megan Brio does a great job. (Still in the early stages, but I might try to build Skills Culture in a similar way – a useful blog.) Whenever I hear the word talent, I find a way to pit talent versus skills – in conflict with each other. This is what got me thinking of a Skills Culture as a philosophy or mindset for much of my work on skills over the years.

Skills Culture
Skills Culture

I got the domain www.skillsculture.com (so I know the concept was somewhat novel). I googled “skills culture”, which returned a Facebook page of an organization in India. Some of our interpretations of a skills culture are similar, though their work focuses on underprivileged students in education. I clearly see the advantages in emphasizing skill acquisition with less structured schools. But I have always had a much broader view, focusing on education and higher education students and young professionals.

Thinking about educational systems, a Skills Culture seems aligned to an apprenticeship model. Once students find a career track, they learn specific skills in the classroom and apply them in experiences; sometimes working towards mastery. There is gaining traction for apprenticeships in the US. These “new age apprenticeships” represent many disciplines (not limited to skilled trades) and do not designate a lifetime career.

In fact, this less strict adherence to careers is a key differentiator of a Skills Culture. With Skills Based Approach (an engine behind Skills Culture), a student or professional works with an evolving skill set and may pivot towards another career instantaneously – assess current and needed skills, identify gaps, and acquire needed skills. So, working in skills makes transitions fluent.

Working with a Skills Culture addresses all skills (not just technical skills). I suggest students build strong foundational thinking skills, which give them a basis for learning technical skills. Thinking skills also make interpreting humanities and arts meaningful. Students learn ‘soft skills’, which becomes more important than technical skills as we experience a rise in automation, some experts argue.

A Skills Culture is about learning new skills ad hoc, whether for personal or professional motivations. It might take 20 hours to learn a skill for a student’s own needs. The whole movement towards micro learning works best with skills and competencies. Personally, I see no reason why a student or professional does not give learning a skill a chance.

Every experience is an opportunity to apply skills, therefore experiential learning is a key component of a Skills Culture.

Here are some other aspects of a “Skills Culture”:

  • Working with talents involves a fixed mindset: “I have these talents, so this is what I should be doing”. Working with skills involves a growth mindset: “I want to try this skill. If I put the time and deliberate practice toward learning the skill, there is a good chance I will be successful”.
  • Put a list of talents next to a list of skills, there is considerable overlap between the actual names. It is all about the connotation. Talents are natural abilities. Skills are acquired through experiences.
  • Dealing with skills and competencies, and underlying methods and applications is more precise than talking about talents.
  • A super talented professional is also a master of related skills. Someone who has talent will gravitate towards learning related skills; it makes sense.
  • Everyone must acquire skills, regardless of your collar: blue, white, or hoody. A Skills Culture (as a mindset) is useful for anyone, regardless of their class or education / career stage.

Translate Everything to Skills

Skills Based Approach is meant to simplify. Students and professionals work with an evolving skill set and constantly cycles through four stages to stay relevant. There are many strategies for education and career planning, one of them is about becoming self and socially aware before making any decisions.

Translate to Skills
Translate to Skills

Take any results, translate them to skills and create a plan to move forward.

Intelligences. When I think of intelligences, I think of cognitive, emotional, creative, and contextual (but there are other interpretations). Last week (05/2017) Bill Gates mentioned how students should consider one of nine intelligences as they plan their career. Regardless of the source, figure out what intelligences you have a natural aptitude, then translate into skills and an action plan to build the skills.

Gallup Strengths. Gallup has been working on improving employment engagement, leadership, and team building for decades. Their surveys resonate with a nationwide audience. One of their services is StrengthFinder, where users take online tests to discover their top strengths (weaknesses too). (I think) there is something exhilarating about discovering your strengths and sharing them with your advocates – team members, mentors, coworkers, etc. Everyone signals to each other: “this is what I do best”.

The advantage in mapping your strengths to skills is: “putting your best foot forward”. I took the test once while working towards an MBA and again ten years later, surprised to get the same results. My top strengths are learner and enterpriser. For me, my strengths fit precisely with my skills: business management, business strategy, idea generation, technical writing, and research.

Jung Personality Types / Holland Occupational Themes. Myer Briggs is a gold standard for testing for Carl Jung personality types. These tests have been around for forty to fifty years. Before the test was on paper, now there are many variants you can take online in about twenty minutes. Tests for Holland Occupational themes are focused on career themes.

Knack Talents. Play games to identify disciplines or area of expertise to pursue, ‘knacks’. There are advantages in playing games to determine possible careers. They involve simulation (as opposed to self-assessments) and are supposed to be fun (not a boring multiple choice test).

Simply plug in any new technologies and applications into Skills Based Approach to get desired results.