Stand Out: 5 Key Skills to Advance Your Career by Debra Stevens

The Blurb On The Back:

We’re communicating online more than ever, but with less and less impact.  We’re failing to be heard or get our message across.

In a digital world, we need to build on what makes us human and develop the five skills that will help us stand out, personally and professionally.

1. Engage

2. Listen

3. Empathise

4. Collaborate

5. Inspire

These soft skills give you the advantage in a changing world, allowing you freedom, flexibility and the ability to collaborate with others.

Stand Out will get you ahead of the curve and give you the tools you need so you can pursue your passions, achieve your goals and thrive in your career.   

You can order STAND OUT: 5 KEY SKILLS TO ADVANCE YOUR CAREER by Debra Stevens from Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Debra Stevens is a trainer, coach and speaker with over 26 years’ experience.  This is an interesting self-help book aimed at helping you take on the growing impact robots and artificial intelligence in the workplace by building up the 5 “human” skills that AI cannot replicate: engagement, listening, empathy, collaboration and inspiration by actually providing a 4 week course to develop each skill rather than referring you to a website.

The book is divided into two parts and the first part starts with the premise that with robots and artificial intelligence taking up increasing space in the workplace, humans need to focus on the skills that robotics/AI cannot replicate in order to be able to better move between jobs and stay ahead in the workforce.  I do not disagree with Stevens that the skills of engagement, listening, empathy, collaboration and inspiration are all good ones to have.  Certainly in my years working, they are all skills that keep coming up as being desirable.  However, programmers are working on AI that can mimic skills of empathy even as I type and there are going to be some roles – like customer call centres – where programmes will inevitably deal with the public interactions because human beings are a cost and there are some industries that will always look to eliminate and replace them whenever they can.  On that basis, I think it would have been more helpful had Stevens emphasised that there are general career and personal advantages to being more human, more engaged etc rather than focus on the more artificial battle with the robots/AI.

This apart, I did like how Stevens incorporates quick quizzes, facts and anecdotes to illustrate her points, particularly with regards to collaboration, and there are also suggestions for further reading if you’re interested.  The first part of the book is all about building a map of who you are and getting a roadmap to work on  the structure of the book works well and Stevens offers practical tips on how to go about this, including suggested templates for approaching colleagues, which I think is very useful.

The second part of the book then moves onto building each of the 5 skills, including exercises to carry out, tips for those of us who are more introverted.  Each chapter has exercises to go over a week long period, with each week building on and emphasising those learned before and Stevens sharing stories from her previous experience.  For me, the structure of these chapters is one of the reasons why this is one of the better self-help books out there because there’s an actual structure here – it feels like a complete course rather than a book that’s basically there to sell the author’s day-to-day business (and I mean no shade on authors who do that – everyone has to earn a living and these books are marketing tools as well as guides).  Certainly there were things within the exercises that made me think about my skillset and points that I should be focusing on and things I should be looking at in terms of how I approach things.

On this basis, I think that if you’re looking to focus on these ‘softer’ skills, then this is a good book to check out and is certainly work 4 weeks of your time to implement.

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