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Skills Acquisition in the New Year

By Shakirah Hunter

In an ever-changing world, with our knowledge skillset needing to be updated constantly – we are constantly in the tug-of-war of needing to develop ourselves but never seeming to have the time to do so. Our schooling systems have been attached to academic success, and this then hinders the growth of real-life practical skills. Knowledge and skills differ greatly. Knowledge is regarded as having information about a particular subject. You acquire knowledge through sensory input – through listening, reading, watching, or writing.  You may have a theoretical understanding of something – no matter how deeply informed you may be, this does not mean that you are able to apply this knowledge physically or practically.

Skills refer to the ability to apply the knowledge you may have to a specific situation. It is taking your information and by repeatedly practising the skill – you develop the ability to move your theory-based knowledge into action. For example, we might have all the knowledge on public speaking – yet the only way we are able to become proficient at it is by practising the skills that allow us to develop the ability. Similarly, we are all in need of skills that enhance our knowledge and experience. You might have the best education and your report card might have given you the stamp of approval that you are an expert in any subject – but as we enter the workplace, we find that ‘real-life’ often is quite different from theory.

To thrive, one needs skills added to your knowledge.

In the workplace, listening skills, effective communication skills, leadership skills and even learning how to be a part of a team is not simply knowledge-based. We must learn how to listen to others, we must focus on practising our ability to manage teams and being a part of the team as well. Personal development is the ability to look at our skill sets and understand where we might need to focus on – in developing ourselves.

Developing skills in the workplace is a given, however, we have outsourced so much of the menial tasks that we are now unable to take pleasure in basic skills. Simple things like learning how to drill, how to fix or how to make a certain dish. In the modern world, we have outsourced it all, with gardeners and electricians and helpers and cooks. And in so doing, we have removed the absolute joy that comes with doing something and building our knowledge and skill set. Skills add value, to our work and most importantly add a sense of purpose to our lives.  Learning a new skill like gardening or building might seem to have no direct benefit in our lives when in reality they teach you skills that can assist you in so many other parts of your life.

Sometimes we are held back by our own perceived limitations. We are crippled with the feeling of “I will never be able to do that”. Yet, for us to grow and develop our skills, there must be a change in our mind frame – a deep willingness to learn and develop.  We can have the most dedicated and experienced teachers – but it is only in wanting to learn and develop that we can nurture our skill sets. Talent is an inborn ability that different people are blessed by Allah. This does not mean that we should shy away from things we are not naturally talented to. It is in the exercise of the muscle repeatedly that we build our abilities and enhance our skills.

Mufti Moosajee spoke to Life coach Idrees Khamisa on the importance of skill acquisition, and he advised us to use the holiday period to develop skills – we must learn to set up goals and know what we want to achieve. Break the skill down to find out subskills that you might need. Thirdly, find out the barriers in attaining the skills. The modern workplace is in need of academic excellence coupled with people who understand that we are constantly changing and evolving, therefore we have to constantly develop and hone our skills.

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