The 5 key skills for the collaborative economy

 How to succeed in the collaborative economy 

I find that I am perplexed by an increasing number of things. I don’t know whether it’s just that there are more things to be perplexed about, or I’m just more easily bemused these days.

One of the main things that bothers me is the disconnect between the skills that today’s graduates are taught, and the ones that are needed by businesses and organisations. So as we are about to see another class of graduates flood the market, doesn’t it make sense to ask what skills they should be trying to acquire?

The answer is that no one seems to really know.  

So I did pose that exact question to Rachel Botsman, international expert on the collaborative economy in an interview at HRTechEurope in March. I tend to be quite cynical about the whole concept collaborative economy, but there is one demographic I think it serves well.

That is the newly graduated.

Unemployment and underemployment

Entry level unemployment rates are still high, with the 18-24 year old demographic hardest hit at a a 23.2% unemployment rate in Europe. Employers are now expecting entry-level candidates to have acquired key skills before they start any employment and to be “job ready.”

In the US a current population survey last year found that the median income for individuals between 25 and 34 has fallen in every major industry but healthcare since the Great Recession began.

According to Pew Research, income inequality has returned to levels not seen since the 1920s. Today, income distribution mirrors those same patterns. We also witnessing what is becoming an underclass of people, who are simply unable to find work in a modern corporate economy. This is a combination of the lack of ability, the lack of willingness and the lack of opportunity.

But for those who are willing and simply lack the opportunity, the collaborative economy works perfectly.

We are seeing the expansion of the “micro-entrepreneur” role, as increasingly low value work is outsourced. This brings in its wake graduate under employment, as the number of, what used to be called “graduate jobs,” decreases.

For the uninitiated the collaborative economy is defined as:

An economic model based on sharing, swapping, trading, or renting products and services, enabling access over ownership. It is reinventing not just what we consume but how we consume.

This covers three main areas of activity: redistribution markets for underutilized resources, collaborative lifestyles where non-product assets are exchanged and traded in new ways and finally product service systems where people pay to access the benefit of a product versus needing to own it outright.

In the collaborative economy, Rachel cited 5 key skills she believed are key to success, in addition of course to the necessary hard skills. To be an Uber driver, you obviously must have a driving license.

These 5 key skills are:

  • Business know how
  • Financial awareness: P & L, tax, insurance
  • Self-Promotion and marketing
  • Networking
  • Professional image

As someone who is familiar with the 18-24 demographic, I would say that their knowledge of these 5 skills is generally on the weak to poor spectrum. Part of the reason for this is that they are not taught these skills. And when they are, they can be resistant to learning them. 

So what today’s graduates should be willing to do, if faced with unemployment, is create their own web site and get out there. The old room chez Mum and Dad might seem tempting, but it is a temporary solution only.

Double bind

Today’s graduates are also sadly caught up in a culture where prospective employers don’t necessarily value the entrepreneurial skills of a jobbing contractor. I have spoken to any number of new and unemployed graduates who complain about the “copy paste” recruitment policies of many hiring managers. Many also moaned in frustration about the “lack of experience” trap. All have heard the lines:

“Why haven’t you had a proper job?”

“Why have you moved around so often?”

Something has got to give

Either universities have to adjust their curricula to meet the skill set deficit of the collaborative economy. Or, hiring managers need to give credit to the skills candidates pick up as “micropreneurs”

There is one final quality I would add.

Work ethic.

For anyone in their early career to survive the grind of the life of a “micropreneur”, that in it self says volumes about someone’s  character.

What do you think?


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