Rise of the Hidden Skills

Two years ago, so Facebook Memories tells me, I took a holiday to Fiji and read a book in a hammock by the ocean (those were the good old days). The book, “Year One” by popular novelist Nora Roberts, was the first in her new trilogy and centred around the rise of dark magics following a pandemic, and the ensuing battle to save the world from grips of evil. It’s a good book, the best of the three in the series. If you’re bored in self-isolation, I recommend grabbing it off the virtual library shelf for a read.

Although the story line is engaging and suspenseful, the part that still resonates with me, two years on, is the way the main characters adapted to their new world – a world where governments had crumbled, electricity failed, food was scarce and safety was a luxury. From the ruins of 21st century society emerged an ‘off-grid’ life. A need for basic skills related to survival, rather than modern day careers, arose. An ability to tackle things like sewing, teaching, baking, healing, building, fixing, and re-purposing items made you an asset to your community. Bankers became gardeners, IT experts became chefs and marketing executives took to mending clothes. A new set of skills were valued and your ability to contribute to your community was how worth was measured.

The parallels to the current situation we live in are intriguing. I was taught to knit and crochet early in my life, and I took Textiles and Design for my HSC, so I can sew. I can cook to survive, but am no chef, and my ability to garden is limited to the fact that I bought a Peace Lily in 2010 and it’s still alive (although many other plants have met their demise during the same timeframe). Last week, for the first time in a long time, I started to sew again. An old, unfinished object is now complete. I found a stash of yarn in the cupboard and I’m contemplating the design of a knitting project. I even hand-stitched a present for a UK-based friend for her birthday in a few weeks time. Pre-COVID 19, I wasn’t using these skills. They lay dormant as I was too busy focusing on socialising with friends and family, communicating face to face, leading and managing teams etc…..

I wonder how many of us have hidden skills that we will find during this time of self-isolation?

What new abilities will be be able to offer our teams when we emerge from our cocoons?

Will we still prioritise the same skills when we are recruiting the first position in the new post-COVID-19 world? Or will we put more of an emphasis on the skills that support a community?

I’m seeing the emergence of hidden skills in my work teams already. In a team meeting last week, one Construction teacher demonstrated new skills in Microsoft Teams. Usually an ‘on the tools’ tradie, he is now the go-to person in the team of teachers to assist with the conversion of lessons into a digital format. Confined to home for the mandatory 14 day isolation required after a thwarted trip to Bali, he has focused on honing an emerging ‘hidden’ skill. It’s still a work in progress of course, yesterday he got a virtual toilet paper hat stuck to his head during the video conference and couldn’t figure out how to remove it, but hey? It’s a start.

Then there is an old colleague of mine who has dusted off a recipe book his mum gave him. He is busy making food from his childhood, having unearthed a new passion for baking. He now makes afternoon teas for vulnerable residents in his street, dropping off his latest creations at their front door. It’s like a new and improved version of the game “knock and run” we played as kids, only with scones!

With so many people confined to their homes, there has been a rise of tutorials for everything you can think of on You Tube , IGTV, Facebook, Tik Tok, Snap Chat and blogs. People are re-purposing not only milk containers, old furniture, strips of paper, scraps of material (make your own loo paper anyone?), but we are re-purposing ourselves. This COVID-19 world has us thinking critically, creatively and with ingenuity.

There’s a certain sense of irony in that the moment we cannot leave our physical boxes, we begin to think outside of our mental ones, and expand our mindsets to discover fuller, multi-dimensional versions of ourselves.

Take a look around your team during your next virtual meeting. Who is already showing signs of emerging from their personal cocoons into a different butterfly?

One thought on “Rise of the Hidden Skills

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  1. This article encaptulates some of my observations of the past few weeks. A great example is the manner in which my almost complete TAE40116 face to face learning class, has become a screen to screen environment using one of the popular video meeting platforms.
    It took two good attempts to get 90% success and as many of my colleagues commented on Thursday afternoon after a whole day in their home office/loungeroom/kitchen/daughters bedroom/empty workplace office, “it was a lot more engaging than they thought”.
    Don’t get me wrong, i am already dreaming of the social outings and networking that should never disappear.


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